Jump Into Design: Understanding the Design Process

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In this series of activities (page 5), students are introduced to the design process. Students observe existing paper clips, design their own, then compare their approach to a formalized design process. To reinforce the design process students analyze toothpaste caps as designed objects. Readings about "The Perfect Paper Clip" and "Form Follows Function" are included to foster student appreciation of design.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
2 to 4 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Straight pins
  • Safety pins
  • A variety of different types of paper clips of varying sizes
  • 4 different types of wire cut into lengths of 1 foot (30 cm) for designing paper clips
  • Wire cutters and needle-nose pliers
  • Stack of scratch paper to test solutions
  • Additional materials for embellishment, such as beads, buttons, glue, etc.
  • Toothpaste cap samples: screw top and flip-top cap
  • Flip chart and markers, white board and markers, or computer to display discussion points
  • Safety goggles


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Industrial Engineering
      • Mechanical Engineering
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • use keyboard
  • use mouse
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • Science After School Consumer's Guide