Lights, Sounds, Fabrics & Daisies: Careers in the World of Design

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, September 20, 2006

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies
  • Technology

Lesson Time

Two fifty-minute class periods


In this activity, students will investigate the broad range of jobs that can be found in the world of design. In the initial part of the activity, students will explore sound design, landscape architecture, structural design, lighting design, textile design, computer graphics and urban planning. In the second part of the activity, they will choose an area of design to research. The class research on careers in design will be compiled in a resource book and posted on a website for others to share.

National Standards

Standard 3. Level IV. Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the individual 8. Knows the role of technology in a variety of careers 10. Knows that technology can benefit the environment by providing scientific information, providing new solutions to older problems, and reducing the negative consequences of existing technology (e.g., monitoring a habitat or measuring greenhouse gases, improving renewable energy sources, and creating scrubbers to improve coal-burning facilities)
Family/Consumer Science
Standard 9. Understand important concepts and skills related to careers in the housing, interiors, and furnishings industry
Standard 1. Level IV. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process 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)
Standard 7. Level IV. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts 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(e.g., textbooks, biographical sketches, letters, diaries, directions, procedures, magazines, essays, primary source historical documents, editorials, news stories, periodicals, catalogs, job-related materials, schedules, speeches, memoranda, public documents, maps) Standard 4. Level IV. Gathers and uses information for research purposes 2. Uses a variety of print and electronic sources to gather information for research topics (e.g., news sources such as magazines, radio, television, newspapers; government publications; microfiche; telephone information services; databases; field studies; speeches; technical documents; periodicals; Internet)
Listening & Speaking
Standard 8. Level IV. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes 3. Uses a variety of strategies to enhance listening comprehension (e.g., focuses attention on message, monitors message for clarity and understanding, asks relevant questions, provides verbal and nonverbal feedback, notes cues such as change of pace or particular words that indicate a new point is about to be made; uses abbreviation system to record information quickly; selects and organizes essential information) 4. Adjusts message wording and delivery to particular audiences and for particular purposes (e.g., to defend a position, to entertain, to inform, to persuade) 5. Makes formal presentations to the class (e.g., includes definitions for clarity; supports main ideas using anecdotes, examples, statistics, analogies, and other evidence; uses visual aids or technology, such as transparencies, slides, electronic media; cites information sources)
Arts & Communication
Standard 1. Level IV. Understands the principles, processes, and products associated with arts and communication media 3. Knows specific techniques and skills used in different art forms (e.g., dance structures and forms; script analysis, casting techniques, staging procedures, set design and construction, and theatre management in theatre; precision movement and controlled tone quality used in musical performance; the principles of design used in visual art) 6. Knows skills used in electronic communications (e.g., producing audio recordings and broadcasts, producing video recordings and motion pictures)
Working With Others
Standard 1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group

Common Core Standards

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.


Students will do the following:
  • conduct Internet research
  • evaluate and analyze information from multiple information sources
  • create a presentation
  • participate in small-group and whole-class discussions
  • learn about diverse design occupations


  • "Working in Design" handout


  • computer with Internet access


Building Background That's Design?

The purpose of this activity is to provide students with background information on varied facets of the world of design. 1. Read the following quotations aloud to your students:
  • "Design is both a verb and a noun."
  • "The impulse to design varies according to needs and wishes, time and place, cultural and social conventions, materials and technology."
  • "The act of designing is carried out in many different ways, from the personal choices we make every day when we set the table or plant a garden, to the collective decisions made in the marketplace or at city hall. Because it occurs on many different levels, employing different processes and degrees of expertise, design can be understood variously as craft, style, engineering, invention, planning, refinement, as an exercise in taste or an act of choice."
Source: "Design for Life" by Susan Yelavich Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution 2. Tell the students that they are going to learn about different aspects of design. Ask the students to select one of the following categories of design that they think is interesting, and visit the websites that are listed below it. Tell the students that they may browse these websites individually, in pairs, or in small groups. Teacher Note: These categories are just a brief sampling of different kinds of occupations related to design. The purpose of this initial activity is simply to engage students' interest in design, and increase their awareness of opportunities in the design world.
  • Sound Design:
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Structural Engineering
  • Lighting Design
  • Textile Design!eipaL?idno=414&state=showocc
  • Graphic Design
  • Urban Planning

3. Invite the students to briefly share what they learned about the field of design.

Steps for Learning A Festival of Possibilities: Exploring Jobs in Design

The purpose of this activity is to encourage students to conduct independent research on a design-related occupation of their choice. 1. Tell the students that they may choose to work individually, in pairs, or in small groups. Encourage the students to find someone with a common interest in a specific area of design if they are going to work with other students. 2. Give the students a copy of the handout entitled "Working in Design". 3. Provide time for students' presentations. 4. Compile students' information on design careers in a class book or on a class website.


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 brainstorming in generating ideas. Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor-Rate the quality of the resources that you shared with your classmates. Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate the effectiveness of your presentation. Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate how clearly you communicated your ideas. Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate your creativity. Excellent             Good            Adequate            Poor

Enrichment Extension Activities

Design in the Local Community
Ask your students to research people who work in design in the local community. If possible invite them into the classroom to share their knowledge with your students. You may also wish to take a field trip to a local design workplace.

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