The Inspiration Machine

The aim of this project was to create a drawing machine. The images created by it had to be abstract, clean and simple so they could be interpreted into some design elements, used as inspiration sources, or became the starting point of a brainstorming session.


I came up with a design that works similar to a barrel organ, but produces images instead of music. Its operation principle is simple. At the core of the machine are two plaster discs. Each disc affects the movement of the pen in one axis. To get machine to draw you have to chip a few pieces off the discs and then rotate the top handle. The more pieces you chip off, the more sophisticated the drawing becomes.

A wide variety of mechanisms was tested before I settled on the one presented here. The trick was to grant the user with just the right amount of control over the drawing process: Give too much control and the machine becomes just a tool for visual art; Give too little and you leave no room for user exploration. So I made a machine which relied heavily on user input, yet was still rather unpredictable. Thus it makes the user experiment with the drawing step by step by observing how every broken off plaster piece influences the overall picture.


The reason I’ve chosen to make discs out of plaster instead of some reusable material was to highlight the significance of every user input. Unlike pliable materials, plaster is not repairable, hence no changes to the drawing can be undone.