Enter if You Will: The People’s Design Award

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, September 18, 2007

Grade Level

  • Middle 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 III. 1. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of informational texts (e.g., electronic texts; textbooks; biographical sketches; directions; essays; primary source historical documents, including letters and diaries; print media, including editorials, news stories, periodicals, and magazines; consumer, workplace, and public documents, including catalogs,technical directions, procedures, and bus routes)
Standard 1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
Level III. 5. Uses content, style, and structure (e.g., formal or informal language, genre, organization) appropriate for specific audiences (e.g., public, private) and purposes (e.g., to entertain, to influence, to inform)
Working With Others
Standard 1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group

Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts Standards Writing 

Grade 6-8

Production and Distribution of Writing:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.5 With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

English Language Arts Standards: Speaking and Listening

Grade 6-8

Comprehension and Collaboration:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1.A Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.2 Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.3 Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and relevance and sufficiency of the evidence and identifying when irrelevant evidence is introduced.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.5 Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 8 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)


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 www.cooperhewitt.org users are able to browse and vote from the existing nominees or upload images to nominate a new object. The site receives hundreds of nominations, thousands of votes and more than 100,000 visitors. The winner of the first People’s Design Award was the Katrina Cottage, which was designed by Marianne Cusato.
Visit the Web site that has information and images of the Katrina Cottage at http://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 www.peoplesdesignawards.org. 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 http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/10/15/features/design16.php. Have them write a brief response summarizing the article content and their reactions to it.

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