Introducing the Design-o-Matic 4000!

You might recognize this vending machine as the one that lived in Hatcher Library, where it stocked healthy snacks, school supplies, and other materials. After it's recent retirement by the Library, the Shapiro Design Lab transformed it into <dramatic voice> the Design-o-Matic 4000.

An image of the Design-o-Matic 4000, an art and information vending machine from the Shapiro Design Lab

The inspiration for this project came back during my graduate school at the University of Minnesota. While there, I saw an Art-o-Mat for the first time, Clark Whittington's project where he restores and repurposes old cigarette vending machines to sell small pieces of art. The location of Minnesota's Art-o-Mat was especially apt; the vintage cigarette dispenser was located in the campus health center. 

A few years and many small art packages later, I jumped at the chance to have our own version of an Art-o-Mat in the Shapiro Design Lab. We've given it a bit of a twist however: everything's free!

The first round of items in the Design-o-Matic illustrates its role in distributing both art and information to visitors of the Lab: printed material about a variety of Library services, mini-comics from Ann Arbor artists Anne and Jerzy Drozd, stickers from Girls Rock Detroit, information and art from other campus organizations (the Ginsberg Center, the Center for Engaged and Academic Learning, Innovate Blue, Wolverine Press, and WCBN, among others), and much more. Plus, mystery envelopes! Who knows what you'll get?

When you come see it, you'll see a few rows are empty. We want you to help us fill the Design-o-Matic! If you have an idea or have material you'd like to put in the machine, send an email to A few things to keep in mind when submitting an idea:

1) Items should be reusable, recyclable, or compostable. We don't need to make more waste!
2) Material should be inexpensive and easily distributed, since everything in the machine is free. 
3) Content should be suitable for all ages.

Stop by the Shapiro Design Lab, located on the first floor of the Shapiro Undergraduate Library, to see the Design-o-Matic in action and try it for yourself!


on May 31, 4:01pm

1) The library generates a tremendous amount of scrap paper- perhaps we could put some in here for patron use? We could take some from recycle bins around the building(that doesn't compromise confidentiality, of course) and reuse it for this purpose. 2) those little pencils that we usually have available for patrons, plus a place for people to deposit after

Justin Schell
on June 3, 8:35pm

I like this idea! I wonder if we could put a bunch of 1/4 sheets together in a group with a "cover" sheet that would explain that we're trying to reuse scrap paper for lists, etc, and some other information about recycling, sustainability, etc.