Enter if You Will: The People’s Design Award

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, September 21, 2007

Grade Level

  • High School


  • People's Design Award

Subject Area

  • Language Arts

Lesson Time

Two fifty-minute class periods, plus group homework


Design is both a noun and a verb, and an important part of our everyday experiences. This lesson encourages students to become close observers of design in daily life. The People’s Design Award, which is hosted each year by Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum and sponsored by Target, gives the general public an opportunity to nominate and vote for their favorite designs. In this lesson, students will explore the People’s Design Award Web site and submit a design to the competition.

National Standards

Standard 7. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
Level IV. 1. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of informational texts (e.g., textbooks, biographical sketches, letters, diaries, directions, procedures, magazines, essays, primary source historical documents, editorials, news stories, periodicals, catalogs, job-related materials, schedules, speeches, memoranda, public documents, maps)
Standard 1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
Level IV. 5. Uses strategies to address writing to different audiences (e.g., includes explanations and definitions according to the audience's background, age, or knowledge of the topic, adjusts formality of style, considers interests of potential readers)
Working With Others
Standard 1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group

Common Core Standards

Anchors for Reading:

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Craft and Structure:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.


Students will:
  • conduct Internet research
  • participate in small-group and large-group discussion
  • learn about the design process
  • analyze, summarize, critique, and evaluate information from varied sources
  • make judgments
  • create a presentation


  • “People’s Design Award Journal Log” handout (attached)
  • “Submit Your Design” handout (attached)
  • Internet Web sites


  • Computer with Internet access
  • Writing journal


Building Background
Introducing the People’s Design Award The purpose of this activity is to introduce students to the People’s Design Award.
1. Read the following information aloud to the class:
  • Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, located in New York City, is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. The Museum launched the People’s Design Award in September of 2006, which gives the general public an opportunity to nominate and vote for their favorite designs. By logging on to https://www.cooperhewitt.org/national-design-awards/2014-national-design-award-winners/ users are able to browse the 2014 winners and suggest nominees for 2015. The site receives hundreds of nominations, thousands of votes and more than 100,000 visitors. The winner of the first People’s Design Award in 2013 was the Katrina Cottage, which was designed by Marianne Cusato.
Visit the Web site that has information and images of the Katrina Cottage at https://www.dexigner.com/design_news/8012.html. Ask the students to brainstorm ideas about why the Katrina Cottage was chosen as the winner of the People’s Design Award. 2. Lead a class discussion on students’ opinions about the benefits and drawbacks of an award that is chosen by everyday people instead of design experts and how this relates to good design.
Steps for Learning
Learning, Thinking, & Making Choices The purpose of this activity is for students to explore the diverse designs that are submitted to the People’s Design Award Web site, and to begin to develop their own ideas about what constitutes good design.
1. Divide the class into teams of three students. Provide each group with a copy of the “People’s Design Award Journal Log” handout. The handout asks students to browse the Web site for three days. Each day the student teams must record information about what they see, as well as their reactions. Give the students fifteen to twenty minutes to explore the Web site https://www.cooperhewitt.org/national-design-awards/2014-national-design-award-winners/ . They will choose their favorite design and their least favorite design. 2. Lead a class discussion focusing on the students’ favorite and least favorite designs and the reasons for their choices. Post a list of the reasons for their choices to use as a shared resource. 3. Keep the students in design teams of three people. Tell them that they are going to submit a design—either their own or someone else’s—to the People’s Design Award. To help students make their choices, give each group a copy of the “Submit Your Design” handout.
4. Provide time for each group to present what they will submit to PDA. If possible, invite students from another class to view the presentations. Discuss the reasons why each group selected its design, and their opinions regarding what constitutes good design.5. Provide students with assistance in submitting their design choices, if necessary.


Journal Reflection
Ask your students to write a paragraph answering this question: What constitutes good design?

Enrichment Extension Activities

Extend the Conversation
Ask your students to read the International Herald Tribune article entitled “Taking the pulse of the people: Newest awards by popular vote” at https://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/15/style/15iht-design16.3160786.html?_r=0. Have them write a brief response summarizing the article content and their reactions to it.

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