The Mind Behind Design

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, September 21, 2007

Grade Level

  • High School


  • People's Design Award

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

One fifty-minute class period, plus homework


Design benefits people in a myriad of unique and distinct ways. The People’s Design Award, which is hosted each year by Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum and sponsored by Target, gives the general public an opportunity to nominate and vote for their favorite designs. In this lesson students will explore the People’s Design Award Web site and examine the reasons why new designs are created, the value society places on design, who is impacted by design, and the role that design plays in society.

National Standards

Standard 7. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
Level IV. 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(e.g., textbooks, biographical sketches, letters, diaries, directions, procedures, magazines, essays, primary source historical documents, editorials, news stories, periodicals, catalogs, job-related materials, schedules, speeches, memoranda, public documents, maps)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 1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
Level IV. 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)
Working With Others
Standard 1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group
Standard 2. Understands the historical perspective Level IV. 10. Understands how the past affects our private lives and society in general

Common Core Standards

Anchors for Reading:

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

Craft and Structure:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

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.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

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.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

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.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

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.


Students will:
  • conduct Internet research
  • respond to writing prompts
  • participate in small-group and large-group discussion
  • analyze, summarize, critique, and evaluate information from varied sources


  • “Who Benefits from Design & Innovation?” handout (attached)
  • Internet Web sites


  • Computer with Internet access
  • Writing Journal


Building Background

Design Inventions The purpose of this activity is to allow students to analyze varied aspects of the design process. 1. Tell your students that they are going to participate in a “Think-Pair-Share” activity. The purpose of this activity is to give students an opportunity to reflect on a concept individually, to share their thoughts with a peer, and finally, to participate in large-group discussion. First, ask your students to write responses to the following prompts: • What do you think is the most important item that was designed in the last hundred years? • What do you think is most important design innovation that benefits humanity? • What do you think is the most important design innovation that benefits you personally? Divide the class into pairs, and ask the students to share their responses to the prompts. After the students have had an opportunity to talk with a peer, invite them to share their responses with the entire class. Lead a class discussion using the following questions as guidelines: • Did your opinions change after hearing your classmates’ ideas? • What were the different ways that people evaluated important designs?

Steps for Learning

Who Will Benefit? The purpose of this activity is to help students evaluate and analyze how design impacts different people, different cultures with different needs and wants in society. 1. Divide the class into small groups and ask them to complete the “Who Benefits from Design & Innovation?” handout. 2. Invite the students to share their group responses to each question. Compare and discuss students’ choices. Ask the students why they think there were a variety of responses to each question. People’s Design Award The purpose of this activity is to encourage students to examine varied aspects of design by exploring the People’s Design Award Web site. 1. Introduce the People’s Design Award to your students by visiting the Web site at 2. As a homework assignment, ask the students to choose the design that they think is the most important to humanity.
3. Have your students share their selections with the entire class.


Ask your students to write a paragraph in response to the following question:
• How do you think design changes the world?
Read and discuss students’ work. You may also choose to have individual conferences with students.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Extend the Conversation
Have students conduct further research by asking their parents, caregivers, and/or grandparents to view the People’s Design Award Web site, and vote for their favorite designs or submit a design.

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