Elements of Design Part 1!

Lesson 1: Elements of Design Part 1!


Note: A few weeks prior to Lesson 1, students were assigned to choose and start reading a play that they would use in the upcoming set design unit (must be a straight play—not a musical) and were asked to bring their script to class the next day to be checked off for points. Students have been instructed to bring their scripts to class each day during the set design unit.


Lesson Objective: Students will demonstrate their understanding of how shape, line, and texture and principles of composition communicate in design by analyzing their effect in several designs.


Materials Needed:

AV hook ups


1.Elements of Design Handout Worksheet

1.Elements of Design Handout.Teacher Notes


Lesson 1 Design-Composition

Analysis Activity Pictures (These can be printed or in PPT form)

Lesson 1 Analysis Images

Analysis Activity Slips (cut out, enough for each student to have one)

1.Analysis Activity Slips

A box, hat, bag, really anything that the slips can be put into



  • At the start of the class have the projector/speakers set up.



While students are taking their seats, cue up a clip from The Lord Protector (This movie is kind of a design train wreck-it’s the classic awesome baaaad movie-it’s meant to be an epic adventure film, but it comes across as silly). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04FObq85XSA)

  • Watch the clip as a class


When the clip is over, ask students what their initial impressions were of the production based on the designs in the clip.

  • Overall, would you say that the designers were successful in communicating the story in their designs? Why or why not?
  • What could they have done better?



Read students Michael Gillette’s “Author’s Caveat” from Theatrical Design and Production

  • “The following is another one of those “author’s caveats” that I’ve sprinkled throughout this book. I urge, gentle reader, to pay attention to the amazingly boring material in the following two sections and learn both the elements of design and the principles of composition. A personal aside here: I hate learning definitions/principles just for the sake of learning them. Always have, always will. But I’ve also learned the hard way that having a though understanding of these definitions and principles will actually make it easier for you to create meaningful compositions. And creating “meaningful compositions” –scenic/costume/lighting/projection designs that shape and influence audiences understanding of he play that they’re watching—is the reason that most people want to study this stuff in the first place. So hang in there, it’ll get “funner” after a while.”


Briefly explain that this is sort of a disclaimer that unpacks the reasons why good designers need to study/learn the nitty gritty technical design definitions (such as elements of design and principles of composition) before they jump into designing.

  • How many of you relate to this? (dislike learning definitions just for the sake of learning them)
  • Have you had experiences like Gillette describes? (done the boring stuff first so could do the fun stuff more effectively?)
  • WHY is it important to learn basics first?
  • Taking the time to learn these items (elements of design) will make you a far better designer in the long run.
    • You will avoid having train wreck Lord Protector design work and YOU will have an easier, more enjoyable time later on when you are able to use all these tools to create)



Hand out a Design/Composition Handout to each of the students in the class. Cue up the corresponding PPT presentation. Go through the slides and handout with the students (using the teacher copy as a reference), having them take notes on their copies of the handout. (Remind them that they’ll want to hold onto these notes, they’ll be very helpful throughout this unit)


Use the images in the slides to illustrate and unpack the definitions for each element of design and principle of composition. Ask what questions students have periodically throughout the presentation.



Ask students how do design and composition elements work individually to have an effect?

How do the elements of design play into the principles of composition?

How can analysis of these principles and elements help you as a designer?


Analysis Activity

Explain that students will now have the chance to practice analysis with these principles.

Cue up the Analysis Activity Pictures PPT and have students take out a blank sheet of paper.  Bring out the design/composition slips. Have each student draw a slip. Explain that you will project a design image. Students’ job is to write an analyze for each image focusing specifically on an element/principle that they drew.  Use the questions to guide students in their analysis

  • What story does the design tell?
  • How is this element/principle present in the design?
  • What effect does it have on the overall mood/message of the design?

Go through 1-2 images, then have students switch pieces of papers. Do another couple images having students


Have students get into small groups 3-4 and take 5-10 mins to share their analysis of the different images.


Wrap Up/Discussion

Ask students to share what their experience was like.

What discoveries did you make during analysis?

How can knowing these principles help you as you start to design?


Assessment: Students will be assessed by their participation in class activities, they should keep their notes for next time.