Elements of Design Scavenger Hunt


Introduce design students to the Elements of Design in a fun and collaborative way.

Length of Activity

One or two class sessions, depending on if it is an in-class activity or assigned as homework.

Activity Objectives 

The Elements of Design are basic building blocks of art and design, and I encourage students of Costume Design to refer to the Elements of Design to support their design choices. Spending time recognizing the Elements of Design in the surrounding world helps instill these building blocks into the vernacular of the class.

I normally do this project on one of the first days of class, so in addition to introducing a basic tenet of design in a fun way, the project also helps set a tone of exploration, collaboration, and out-of-the-box thinking at the start of the semester.

Project Description 

-The instructor should introduce the Elements of Design, with supporting images of each. Examples can be images of clothing, artwork, theatre design, everyday objects, and nature.

-Ask students, in groups of two, to leave the classroom for 20-30 minutes and find examples of the Elements on campus: in artwork, architecture, clothing, nature, anywhere. I usually suggest they find four to five examples of each element.

-Once the scavenger hunt is over, the students should upload and organize the images so they can present them to their classmates. This can be done in class or assigned as homework.

-Each group should present their findings to the class. During the presentation they should articulate why they categorized the photo where they did – how did the dominant Element catch their attention? What did they find stimulating/beautiful/distracting/uncomfortable about each item?

-Encourage the entire class to participate in this discussion – what do they find appealing? It might be completely different from student to student. Is there any image in particular that might be interesting to use in a costume design? An unlikely texture? A surprising shape?


-The Principles of Composition could also be included as part of this project, to introduce even more terms to the classroom vernacular.

-This project could be expanded into an early rendering project. The images collected during this project could be a jumping off point to design costumes that primarily harness the power of line, texture, etc.

-I like to send students out on campus to take photographs of things they find visually stimulating, as a way to also encouraging bonding early on in the course and to help them start noticing artistry in the everyday world, but this project could easily be done digitally or by flipping through magazines if the project needed to be restricted to the classroom.