Tour + Workshop = DESIGN: Line

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, October 30, 2006

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Arts

Lesson Time

Two or three fifty-minute class periods


An analysis and exploration of line use, to understand line in terms of design, style and functionality. Students experiment with line application. Use of line in wall coverings, applied arts & industrial design, textiles, drawings & prints will be discussed and included in the power point presentation. Understanding dynamic and diverse use of line will broaden students’ perspective on the purpose and function of line as both design element and expressive artistic application. A cohesive analysis of line and experimental approach to process will position students to use an objective eye when discovering line in natural and designed environments.

National Standards

Visual Arts
Standard 1. Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes
Achievement Standard, Proficient: Students apply media, techniques, and processes with sufficient skill, confidence, and sensitivity that their intentions are carried out in their artworks. Students conceive and create works of visual art that demonstrate an understanding of how the communication of their ideas relates to the media, techniques, and processes they use.
Achievement Standard, Advanced: Students communicate ideas regularly at a high level of effectiveness in at least one visual arts medium. Students initiate, define, and solve challenging visual arts problems independently using intellectual skills such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
Standard 5. Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others Achievement Standard, Proficient: Students identify intentions of those creating artworks, explore the implications of various purposes, and justify their analyses of purposes in particular works. Students describe meanings of artworks by analyzing how specific works are created and how they relate to historical and cultural contexts. Students reflect analytically on various interpretations as a means for understanding and evaluating works of visual art. Achievement Standard, Advanced: Students correlate responses to works of visual art with various techniques for communicating meanings, ideas, attitudes, views, and intentions.  

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.

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.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:
  • develop a deeper understanding of line
  • begin to see and create line with an objective eye
  • produce decorative textile patterns and individual motifs



While working individually or in groups, there should be equal access to a diverse range of materials (materials can be modified), and students should be encouraged to experiment in the ways they are applied.
  • pencils of various type
  • erasers
  • string
  • chalk
  • pencil sharpeners
  • drawing paper of various size and texture
  • colored drawing tools (i.e. markers, conte crayons, pencils)
  • ruler
  • t-square
  • compass and triangle
  • pick-up sticks (not necessary, but a good tool to engage students)
  • silly string (not necessary, but a good tool to engage students)


  • Analysis
  • Exploration
  • Process
  • Design*
  • Line*
  • Motif
  • Pattern
  • Textile
  • Wallcovering
*Students will be asked to define these terms in their own words.


Have tools for the project on hand and placed at workstations.

Warm up:

Have the students familiarize themselves with the tools in front of them. Ask them to create as many different kinds of line as they can with the tools available. Give them about 5 minutes, but be flexible depending on the group dynamic and skill level.
Once their time is up, have them put their solutions aside while you begin the presentation.


Use the projector to present an outline/timeline of the workshop. Discuss vocabulary and explain the goals and process of the lesson to the students so they know what to expect from the lesson. Ask the students to analyze and discuss the use of line, its purpose, and its functionality during the presentation. Show images including urban landscapes, maps, architecture, wallcoverings, textiles, product design, graphic design, as well as recognizable images like the ubiquitous UPC symbol, road surface marking, a photo of a contrail, and perhaps lines of a suspension bridge. Images of work in which artists use line as a primary medium should also be shown (i.e. Sol Lewitt).
Before you begin the main assignment, take some time to reflect on what was created during the warm up. Ask what the students noticed about using the different tools and their approach to the exercise. Encourage the use of some new vocabulary during the discussion period.
Main Assignment:
Step One: To be worked on independently. What sound does a line make? Use with the CD of sound waves you create, including a range of sound clips, both recognizable and abstract. Begin the CD. As each sound plays, students create a line to represent that sound, culminating in a layered composition of line. They should be encouraged to use the material that best suits the sound they hear, and their line should express the personality of the sound.
Presentation, Discussion: Students present material and discuss the challenges, obstacles and enjoyment in the process.
Step Two: To be worked on independently.Students choose their favorite line solutions from step one and combine them together to create a motif.
Step Three: To be worked on in small groups of 3-5. Students use their individual motifs to create a collaborative design pattern for wallcovering and furnishings.
Demonstrate by showing a selection of relevant slides from the museum collection.
Presentation and Discussion: Students present material and discuss the challenges, obstacles and enjoyment in the process.
Q&A: Students are invited to ask questions and the instructor should use the following sample questions to engage students in dialogue.
  • What are the limitations of line?
  • How can line evoke concept, idea, emotion, or personality?
  • What else could be created using line?


The presentation and discussion period along with the culminating Q&A will give both the students and the instructor an opportunity to assess learned knowledge and objectives of the lesson, and the possibility to adapt and customize the lesson accordingly. Outputs: The designs produced serve as evidence of learning.

Enrichment Extension Activities

The study and use of line can be incorporated in the following subjects/topics in order to further learning.Social Sciences/History
  • Borders: neighborhood borders, state borders, national borders
  • Crossing cultural lines and borders (i.e. migration)
  • Lines of inheritance
  • Time Lines
  • Mapping
  • Latitude & longitude
  • Line as measurement (i.e. gaming)
  • Line as organization (i.e. calendar, or clock)
Language Arts
  • Lines of dialogue
  • Lines of poetry
Creative Drama
  • Performative use of line (i.e. Mathew Barney: Drawing Restraint)

Teacher Reflection

Note how this lesson could be adjusted after its initial implementation. How successful were the students? What did the assessment demonstrate about the students’ learning? What instructional strategies worked and what made them successful? What will you change the next time you use this lesson? Why?  

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