High-end/Low-end: Exploring Price & Value in Design

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, September 20, 2007

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • People's Design Award

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts

Lesson Time

One to two 50 minute class periods


What is the role of price and value in design? Should good design be available to everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic level? How is the value of an object determined? In this lesson, students will compare high-end and low-end versions of everyday objects, and explore the role economics plays in design.

National Standards


Students will:
  • analyze, summarize, critique, and evaluate an article on design
  • participate in small-group and large-group discussion
  • work collaboratively in small groups
  • conduct Internet research
  • compare and contrast elements of design
  • create a class presentation highlighting their understanding of value and price in design


  • “Design Analysis” handout (attached)
  • Internet Web sites


  • Computer with Internet access


Building Background

Activity One: Responding to Design Criticism The purpose of this activity is to help students explore their opinions about the ways good design is judged. 1. Divide the class into small groups. Ask your students to read the International Herald Tribune article entitled “Taking the pulse of the people: Newest Awards by Popular Vote Ask the students to answer the following questions: • "It diminishes design to say that it can mean anything, and that the 'best' can be selected with absolutely zero criteria," said one critic, who declined to be named. Do you agree or disagree with this critic’s opinion? • Do you agree or disagree with the self-policing of the submissions to the People’s Design Award? • Do you agree with the idea that since design is a part of everyday life, people tend to feel confident expressing their opinions about it? • What do you think the statement below means? “Just as a country's list of best-selling books can offer insights into its collective obsessions—whether diets or wealth, sex or depression—so, too, can its polls of popular designs.” • Do you agree or disagree with the statement below? "Americans have big consciences," said Paola Antonelli, curator of design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. "Once confronted with this kind of socially relevant design, people will find it hard to revert to their standard idea of design—luxurious, out-of-the-ordinary objects." Activity Two: My Side/Your Side The purpose of this activity is to help students analyze different elements of the value of design. 1. Divide the class in half. Write the following statements on the board. • Why would I pay $200 for a dish when I can pay $5.99? Price has nothing to do with good design. I think good design should be for everyone. • I would pay a lot of money for a well-designed object. Good design is an essential part of high quality items. I think good design should be for people who have the good taste to appreciate it and the money to pay for it. Tell the students they are going to discuss these opposing statements. Ask half the students to take on the viewpoint expressed in the first statement, and half the students to take on the viewpoint expressed in the second statement. Pair the students so that the group contains students representing opposing views. Tell the students to engage in discussion for five minutes.
Lead a class discussion asking students to share their own viewpoints on the role that price and value play in design.
Steps for Learning
Activity One: Sneakers & Clothes: What Are We Paying For? The purpose of this activity is to give students an opportunity compare and contrast varied elements of price and design.
1. Ask your students to choose one of the following articles to read: • Article One: Stefan Marbury’s $14.98 Sneakers http://www2.oprah.com/tows/slide/200705/20070518/slide_20070518_350_401.jhtml • Article Two: Sarah Jessica Parker’s Clothing Line http://www2.oprah.com/beauty/fashion/beauty_fashion_20070518_bit_201.jhtmlInvite the class to share their summaries of the articles, and discuss their responses to what they read. Activity Two: High-end & Low-end Design Analysis The purpose of this activity is for students to analyze differences in high-end and low-end designs. 1. Divide the class into small groups. Give each group a copy of the “Design Analysis” handout. 2. Have each group work together to complete the handout.
3. Stage a class presentation of each group’s work. Invite guests, if possible. Host a critique/discussion after the presentations are complete.


Create a class rubric with your students that will help them understand the effectiveness of their work. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric. -Rate the effectiveness of your presentation in conveying your thoughts about the role of price and value in design. -Rate the effectiveness of your group’s brainstorming in choosing objects from the People’s Design Award Web site. -Rate your creativity. -Rate how well your group was able to collaborate.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Essay Writing
Have your students write a brief paragraph highlighting their understanding of the role of price and value in design. Invite students to share their paragraphs with each other to promote further discussion.

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.