Tour + Workshop = DESIGN: Line

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, October 27, 2006

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Arts

Lesson Time

Two or three 50 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 wallcoverings, 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
Students know the differences between materials, techniques, and processes Students describe how different materials, techniques, and processes cause different responses Students use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories. Students use art materials and tools in a safe and responsible manner Standard 5. Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics & merits of their work and the work of others Achievement Standard: Students understand there are various purposes for creating works of visual art. Students describe how people's experiences influence the development of specific artworks. Students understand there are different responses to specific artworks.


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


  • Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum Collection
  • power point presentation + projector
  • sound compilation (CD/MP3)


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. Introduction: 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 accompanied CD of sound waves and 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?

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.