Leaves, Diamonds, Birds & Roses: Design Patterns in Everyday Life

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, July 8, 2008

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Graphic Design

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics

Lesson Time

Two or three fifty-minute lesson plans


An important part of design is learning to look closely at the objects that surround us. In this activity, students will have opportunities to observe patterns and symbols across disciplines. They will brainstorm ideas, collect and analyze data, and construct graphs and graphic organizers.

National Standards

Common Core Literacy for Other Subjects
Common Core English Language Arts
Language Arts - Writing
Language Arts - Reading
Language Arts - Listening & Speaking
Visual Arts
Working With Others


Students will:
• conduct Internet research • collect data • analyze data • create a graphic organizer • create graphs to organize and display data • create a class presentation • respond to writing prompts



• computer with Internet access • drawing or construction paper • markers, crayons, pencils


Building Background Review
The purpose of this activity is to help students identify patterns and symbols that are part of their everyday lives.
1. Ask your students to brainstorm examples of where a person might see a representation of an apple in his or her everyday life experiences and observations. Record students’ ideas. 2. Visit the following Web sites to show students additional examples of where apples might appear in varied product designs:
Exploring Design Motif Patterns Across Cultures
As a class, explore different design motifs by browsing the following websites:

• Design Motifs in Mayan Art http://nmai.si.edu/exhibitions/infinityofnations/mesoamerica-caribbean.html#notes

• Design Motifs in Kongo Baskets http://www.mi.sanu.ac.rs/vismath/gerdbook/gerdkongo/
Steps for Learning Organizing Design Pattern Observations
The purpose of this activity is to help students collect and organize data based on observations of patterns in their everyday experiences.
1. Tell the students that they are going to conduct research to find examples of patterns and symbols in their everyday observations.Teacher Note: You may wish to assign this as a weekend homework task to provide students with the opportunity to collect data.
2. Divide the class into groups and assign each group one item to look for in everyday life activities:• Group One: Roses • Group Two: Leaves • Group Three: Grapes • Group Four: Birds • Group Five: Stars • Group Six: DiamondsAsk the students to record all examples that they observe in their assigned categories. Did any of their findings surprise them? (Frame/Reframe)3. After the students have collected their data, tell them that they are going to create a graphic organizer. A graphic organizer helps one to visually and spatially represent ideas. There are many examples of graphic organizers. Each group should choose the type that fits their project best. (Generate Solutions)As a class, create a graphic organizer using the information from the Building Background activity in which students brainstormed ideas on apples. Model the steps you use as you create the organizer for your students. You can use the information on the following websites to learn how to create your class graphic organizer: 4. After you have finished constructing the apples graphic organizer as a class, give each group a copy of the “Design Pattern Graphic Organizer” handout. Have each small group construct its own organizer using the data the students collected. (Edit + Develop Ideas) 5. Have the students share their graphic organizers with their classmates. (Share + Evaluate) 6. As a class, create a graph showing the distribution of the places students observed design patterns. For example, your categories might include fabrics, buildings, clothing, dishes, etc. Teacher Note: Select the appropriate kind of graph to meet your instructional goals and your students’ proficiency level. Lead a class discussion on the differences and similarities in where the design patterns were observed based on your graphs. 7. Ask the students to respond in writing to the following prompts (Articulate):
• What did you learn from your research? • What did you learn from your graphs? • What surprised you the most in this activity? • Did this activity help you observe design patterns in your everyday life?


Create a class rubric with your students that will help them assess how well they collected, organized and displayed data. You may wish to complete this assessment with your students. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric.
-How effective was your data collection process? -Rate how effectively you analyzed your data. -Rate the effectiveness of your graphic organizer in showing different design patterns. -Rate the effectiveness of your graphs in showing different design patterns.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Differentiation for Elementary School:
  • Younger students will enjoy looking for patterns and symbols in their everyday lives. Create a table for students to use as they collect their data at home and around their community.
  • You might hand out blank, preprinted graphic organizers to each of the groups to facilitate the design process. Groups can choose the one most appropriate to the task and write their data in the appropriate spaces.
Differentiation for High School:
  • Older students may design an artwork using their findings, to make connections across disciplines. An example might be a photo or video collage of the data they find.
  • You might also assign the task of finding writing (literature, songs, newspaper articles, etc.) in connection with their chosen item. These can also be incorporated into their artwork.

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