Design a Navajo Rug - a Lesson in Symmetry

by Dale A.Pickering,

Elementary Art Teacher

Mesa Public Schools, Mesa, Arizona

This project is devoted to the exploration of Navajo culture as expressed through their weaving and other art forms.

Students will be required to:

  1. Explore the sites attached to this page and the Learning Template;
  2. Complete and print the "Learning Template" (and suggested sites) linked to that page;
  3. Use the graphic design elements linked to this page to create an original symmetrical Navajo rug-like design, using the graphics program chosen by their site instructor.


There are many types of navajo rug designs.  Many of them are specific to the region in which they have been created.

Some of the designs are old and simple, while many are new and complicated.  Some are even related to the buying and selling trends of different times in history.

For this project, the student will learn about the development of Navajo rug designs, about their regional differences, and especially about the concept of visual balance known as symmetry.  

This project may be useful to teachers of social studies and history, as well as the art teacher.

Symmetrical Balance

Many of the Navajo rug designs you will discover by following the project will be good examples of symmetrical balance.

Symmetrical balance is a type of visual balance where the overall composition is arranged to look like it is the same on both sides of the center of the design.

In other words, it is a design which could be folded in half, and as the design folds, each part of the design would match up with its symmetrical counterpart on the opposite side of the center.

The rug design on the right is symmetrical left-to-right.  If a line was drawn vertically down the center of the rug, the arrangement of shapes and colors would appear to be exactly the opposite of each other on both sides of that line.

This design is also symmetrical top-to-bottom.  If a line was drawn horizontally across the rug in its center, the top half and the bottom half would appear to be "mirror opposites" and show symmetry.

Symmetry is the art concept embodied in this lesson.  Many other benefits will be gained by following, reading, and learning about the links associated with the "learning template".



Additional Links not listed in the Learning Template

The Chinle rug design

The Dazzler rug design

Navajo Artisans page

Navajo Arts page

Navajo Life and Culture page