Six degrees of inspiration

Your inspiration is the frame of reference with which you look at the world and it defines the methods you use as a designer.

Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.’

Maybe your inspiration is six degrees of separation from (graphic) design?

Think of one thing that is inspiring to you. It can be anything; a person (an artist, a writer, a philosopher, a politician, a scientist, an academic, your best friend, a fictional character); an artefact (a work of art, a lamp, a music video, a story); a natural element (a colour, a plant, a landscape, a star, an animal)

Use six steps to relate it to graphic design*: In learning about properties of, and stories behind your chosen starting point, you will discover another person, process, artefact that is also inspiring! This is the first degree of separation. Write a (short) paragraph about your choice and the connection with the previous/next step. Continue serendipitously along this path, find the facts and stories that connect one step to the next one.

Gather as much information (visual as well as written) as possible in each step. Every step must be recorded, in a form you find suitable: a tumblr, a process book, a box with physical objects, etc. Try!

This exercise is about research, process and building a library of references that feed your work as a designer.

Presentation: 06 February
(29 January: Project week)


  1. Matters of Speech, Experimental Jetset
  2. Lecture at Walker Art Centre, Experimental Jetset
  3. The Warburg Library, Rebecca Bligh
  4. Karel Martens’ studio
  5. Cabinet of curiosities


* This is not supposed to be a designer or a graphic design typology or object, but rather ideas and concepts you can work with to design the publication and exhibition in the second part of the assignment.

Karel in his studio.

Part two: processing, editing, presenting.

The role of a designer is not only to familiarise themselves with new content and information (research), but most importantly to find ways to translate this information into understandable (visual) language.

This starts with processing what you have found out and distilling the most important points into something that your viewer/reader can understand. If you can’t explain it, you don’t understand it well enough.

To communicate clearly, you also need to hierarchise the information into what is important and what isn’t, into what is integral to a story and what is a possible distraction. That process is called editing.

Finally, you need to present your “story” in a way that appeals, draws in, sustains interest and makes it easy to take in the information.

So here’s what you have to do:

1. Design and produce an exhibition of your frame of reference, of the distilled results of phase 1.

2. Simultaneously, design and produce a publication also about your frame of reference.

Some kinds of information are better suited for one medium than for the other. The exhibition and publication do not each need to contain all the content, they only need to contain it together. However, a viewer/reader must get a well-rounded idea and coherent experience from viewing just one of the two — the story does not need to be complete, but it needs to make complete sense.

The form of the installation¹ and publication² are at your discretion.

1 A wall display, objects on a table/vitrine, a sculpture, a multimedia display, etc.

2 A book, a newspaper, a zine, etc.



  1. Surface Series, Batia Sutter
  2. Mnemosyne Atlas, Aby Warburg (image search)
  3. Roma Publication 199, Karel Martens
  4. Set, exhibition by Na Kim
  5. Set, publication by Na Kim



  • 13 February: develop research and sketching (individual talks).
  • 20 February: concept for installation and publication. At least two different proposals with first sketches (small group talks).
  • 27 February: Spring Break (go crazy!)
  • 6 March: Development phase: second sketches and material and production proposal (small group talks).
  • 13 March: development phase: refinement of sketches and dummies (individual feedback)
  • 20 March: final proposal (individual feedback)
  • 27 March: presentation



Full Color, Karel Martens
Surface Series (display), Batia Suter
Surface Series (publication), Batia Suter