The Design Revolution: Get the Word Out

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, December 3, 2007

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Design for the Other 90%

Subject Area

  • Language Arts

Lesson Time

Two or three fifty-minute class periods


The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s Design for the Other 90% exhibition demonstrates how design can be a dynamic force in saving and transforming lives at home and around the world. Of the world’s total population of 6.5 billion, 5.8 billion people, or 90%, have little or no access to most of the products and services many of us take for granted. In fact, nearly half do not have regular access to food, clean water, or shelter. Design for the Other 90% explores a growing movement among designers to design low-cost solutions for this “other 90%.” In this lesson students will examine this design movement, and create an event to publicize the exhibition.

National Standards

Common Core Literacy for Other Subjects
Common Core English Language Arts 
Language Arts - Reading
Language Arts - Writing
Working With Others


Students will:
  • learn about varied aspects of the design process
  • explore the Design for the Other 90% exhibition
  • conduct internet research
  • create a class presentation
  • participate in small-group and large-group discussion
  • work collaboratively in small groups



Computer with internet access


Building Background Activity One: About the Exhibition
The purpose of this activity is to provide students with background information about the Design for the Other 90% exhibition.
  1. View the brief introductory video featuring information about design at
  2. As a homework assignment, ask the students to explore the Design for the Other 90% website at, and write a brief response to the following question: What is the purpose of the Design for the Other 90% exhibition?
  3. Lead a class discussion based on the students’ responses.
Activity Two: Making a Splash!
The purpose of this activity is to encourage students to think about how new ideas and events are introduced to the public.
  1. Ask the students to think about how events are publicized. Invite the class to brainstorm responses to the following questions:
  • How might a new business attract attention?
  • How might a new sports arena announce its opening?
  • How might a museum introduce a new exhibition?
  • How might a fashion designer announce a new collection?
  • How do scientific researchers share new ideas?
  • How do architects publicize their new buildings?
  • How does a charity publicize its mission?
  • Can you describe a publicity event that you attended?
2.  As a homework assignment, ask the students to survey five people. Have them ask the following question:
  • Can you give me some examples of how events are publicized?
3.  Have the students share the information they collected in their surveys with their classmates.
Steps for Learning Activity One: Design Event
The purpose of this activity is to provide students with an opportunity to design an event to publicize the Design for the Other 90% exhibition.
  1. Divide the class into six small groups. Give each group a copy of the “You’re Invited” handout.
  2. Give each group time to complete their handout and project.
  3. After each group has presented its work, lead a class discussion based on the following questions:
  • What did you learn from your classmates’ presentations?
  • What was the best part of each presentation?
  • How were the presentations distinct from each other?
  • What were the similarities in the presentations?
  • What do you think were the most effective ways to promote the design exhibition?


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 quality of your group’s brainstorming.
  • Rate the quality of your group’s ability to analyze the elements of your task.
  • Rate the quality of your group’s presentation in conveying its ideas.
  • Rate your creativity.
  • Rate how well your group was able to collaborate.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Differentiation for Elementary School:
  • In teams, students can design a promotional event for their school. It can be a themed party (i.e. pizza party, pajama party), a battle of the bands, a field day, etc.
  • The class can then vote for the event they would like to attend the most.
Differentiation for High School:
  • Students will act as marketing consultants for this additional task. In groups, students can conduct research on how a local non-profit, museum, or sports team promotes their events. They can contact the PR and marketing department directly for an interview.
  • Have the group critique the effectiveness of the various means of the organization's marketing strategy.
  • As marketing consultants, have each group propose a new marketing plan for their chosen organization and present their proposal to the organization for feedback.

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