The Design Process: Paper-Cutting

By Franc Leo, October 7, 2006

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Arts

Lesson Time

Five to eight fifty-minute class periods


The paper-cutting project is a two-week project that starts out as a group activity involving 3-5 students in each group. Each group will pick a theme (any theme, this can be completely random) and develop a paper-cut design representing their theme. The group must use the “Design Process” chart describing the five steps of design: Identify, Imagine, Develop, Execute, and Evaluate when working on the project. The first cut-out will have a smaller format (11 x 9 inch cardboard) and the final presentation will have a medium-size format (22 x 18 inch cardboard). After the cut-design is done, each group must write a Descriptive Memory composition about the design process they used from the group and individual perspective. The presentation of the project and the composition is limited to: • Two small-format cut designs (initial designs) • Two final-format cut designs • Six flip-chart page presentation of the graphic development of the design • Collective or group presentation of the Descriptive Memory of the project

National Standards

Visual Arts
Standard 2. Using knowledge of structures and functions Achievement Standard, Proficient: •      Students demonstrate the ability to form and defend judgments about the characteristics and structures to accomplish commercial, personal, communal, or other purposes of art •      Students evaluate the effectiveness of artworks in terms of organizational structures and functions •      Students create artworks that use organizational principles and functions to solve specific visual arts problems Achievement Standard, Advanced: •      Students demonstrate the ability to compare two or more perspectives about the use of organizational principles and functions in artwork and to defend personal evaluations of these perspectives •      Students create multiple solutions to specific visual arts problems that demonstrate competence in producing effective relationships between structural choices and artistic functions Standard 3. Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas Achievement Standard, Proficient: •      Students reflect on how artworks differ visually, spatially, temporally, and functionally, and describe how these are related to history and culture •      Students apply subjects, symbols, and ideas in their artworks and use the skills gained to solve problems in daily life Achievement Standard, Advanced: •      Students describe the origins of specific images and ideas and explain why they are of value in their artwork and in the work of others •      Students evaluate and defend the validity of sources for content and the manner in which subject matter, symbols, and images are used in the students' works and in significant works by others

Common Core Standards

Anchor Standards for Writing:

Text Types and Purposes:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

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.

Range of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

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.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.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.


Students will be able to:
  • identify the goals of the project
  • create possible solutions to the challenges
  • work on their ideas until they evolve to the point of completion
  • produce models and designs of their solutions
  • asess their proposal and grade the quality of the solutions proposed


Each group needs the following supplies:
  • Exacto knife or paper/cardboard cutter
  • 6 big-format pages (approximately 18” x 24”)
  • 2 small-format cardboards (approximately 9” x 12”)
  • 2 big-format cardboards (approximately 10” x 17”)
  • personal sketchbooks/design books
  • pencils
  • at least 5-10 printouts of different paper-cut projects (attached at the end of this lesson)


Design Process-strategy formula Descriptive Memory-composition describing the project proposal Design Presentation–project presentation Maquette–scale model Critique–advisories related to particular stages of a project


• Set-up directions 1. Organize the class into groups of 3 to 5 students 2. Have each group choose any preferred topic or theme 3. Distribute the supplies for each group 4. Each group is instructed to choose a different topic 5. Follow step-by-step process of the activity • Teacher presentation and motivation This project is created to teach the following:
  • teamwork in design and maquette building
  • focus on the Design Process
  • the ability to perceive 2-dimensional projects to 3-dimensional design
• Step-by-step process of the activity 1. Each group should choose their topic (really anything, whatever inspires them) 2. Have each group create 6 sketches related to their topic (2 pages) 3. These sketches will be turned into cut-paper designs 4. Each group should create 6 more sketches related to the cut-paper process, keeping in mind any criticism or changes that they’d like to make to their first 6 sketches (2 pages) 5. The group should use 2 small-format cardboards to produce their first sketch-to-cut maquette 6. After experimenting, the groups should finish their final 6 sketches (last 2 pages) 7. Using any lessons they learned in their first drafts of the sketch-to-cut maquette, the groups should cut the 2 big-format cardboards with their final design 8. Each group presents their design and explains the process they used using the Design Process graph as a model • Wrap-up Have each of the teams put up their 6 sheets ofsketches, explaining the steps taken in the development of their design to the rest of the class. The groups should mention the difficulties they encountered and then the solutions should be outlined as a class. The design presented (sketches and cuts) should reflect the use of the Design Process chart in all of its stages.


The students can be assessed on their final products and their presentations:
  • The presentation of the sketches reflect the group's topic
  • The presentation of the final paper-cuts reflect originality and quality of the final design
The creativity of their designs:
  • Designs are extremely intricate and extremely creative and create a wonderful tonal effect when exposed to direct light
  • Designs are average yet creative
  • Designs are basic and do not try different intricate designs
  • Designs are basic geometric shapes with limited creativity involved in the planning

Enrichment Extension Activities

Different themes can be addressed depending on the projects aim: Heroes, sacrifice, love, brotherhood, friendship, transportation, life, death, peace, chemistry, patriotism, war, etc. The final paper-cut project can be transferred to a bigger scale and be worked on as a sculpture for display in any place.

Teacher Reflection

The students were very successful. This was the first time they were exposed to the Design Process graph. They presented their work to the class in an organized way and their final cut-paper designs were very original. The students demonstrated that they can follow organized Design Process procedures and relate the Design Process to any topic that is being studied. The students do need to revisit maquette building, use of cutting tools, and presentation techniques in order to strengthen their skills. It was helpful for the students to compare this small-scale project to real-life, street-size, center-park projects. This gave the students a different scale and approach to the designs that were presented. Next time, I will work with different materials for the last part of the project. Once the paper-cut is done and the final presentation is approved, different materials will be introduced to produce a similar design. This will show that different materials can be used for the same projects with similar, good, or better results.

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.