Brooks Stevens Teacher Resources


We live our lives surrounded by objects, some hardly noticed, others cherished. Whether purely functional or beautiful to look at, the success of an object depends on the effectiveness of its design.

Industrial design is a branch of artistic activity that came into being as a result of the need to design machine-made products, introduced by the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. The purpose of industrial design is to ensure that goods satisfy the demands of fashion, style, function, materials, and cost.

Lesson Plans


The following interdisciplinary lesson plans are developed to accompany the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Brooks Stevens archives and Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World exhibition. They are intended primarily (but not exclusively) for middle and high school teachers who wish to introduce their students to the field of industrial design and the processes industrial designers utilize to design creative, useful, safe, and appealing mass-produced objects. The lesson plans are developed to be used as a sequence of activities building on previous knowledge or as independent lessons to supplement school curriculum as needed. You will find information about how each lesson plan matches State of Wisconsin academic standards, lesson objectives, materials needed, how to implement the lesson, and background information, along with additional suggested activities for classroom use.

Lesson 1 - What is Industrial Design?


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Summary: Introduce students to the field of industrial design as a career and a field of art. Explore the processes used by industrial designers to design useful, safe, and appealing mass-produced objects. Students will select an object from their home or classroom and redesign it to improve its function, feel, and/or appearance.

Grade level: 6–12

Lesson 2 - Design A Better Bag


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Summary: Students explore the creative process and understand the invention/innovation process through examining how paper bags are constructed. Teams of students work cooperatively to design, innovate, and then build their own paper bag models designed to hold as much weight as possible in proportion to its volume.

Grade level: 6–12

Lesson 3 - Design a New Product


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Summary: Teams of students work cooperatively to choose the ten greatest inventions from a list of likely candidates and compile the list in a graph. Teams of students work cooperatively to design, invent, and build a model of something new, useful, or decorative to solve a problem using any combination of materials provided.

Grade level: 6–12

Lesson 4 - You Can't Sell This Thing


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Summary: Introduce students to new product trademarks/logos, packaging, and advertising. Teams of students will design and create a logo/trademark, packaging box, and poster for advertising their new product/invention. They will present their new product/invention, marketing items, and information about the marketing target audience, cost to produce, selling price, and storage/handling to the class.

Grade level: 6–12

Lesson 5 - In the Year 2121


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Students research the advances of an invention’s industrial design over decades or centuries. They then project improvements and innovations for the future in drawings and descriptive pros.

Grade level: 6–12