What connects a slightly squashed paper cup, a Swedish tape measure, a tiny wooden model of shoes and a 1/14 scale paper chair? The answer is they are all items of value donated by a host of top designers to feature in a unique exhibition at Plymouth University.

The curator of Envelope asked around 100 leading designers – in disciplines from architecture to illustration, and product and graphic design – to place an item they value into an envelope and send it to them.

The result is a fascinating insight into what designers draw upon for inspiration in their daily lives, with both the pieces and the envelopes they were submitted in going on show in the Peninsula Arts Gallery next month.

Pete Davis, Programme Leader for MA Design and Design Culture at Plymouth University, has curated Envelope alongside research assistant Sophie Harbour. He said:

“The public view of a designers’ work is so often confined to the finished product, but of course that does not tell the whole story. Envelope breaks down the barriers and it is fascinating for our students and the general public to get a small glimpse inside some of the planet’s most exciting creative minds. There has been a lot of talk recently about how traditional skills might be being lost with the transition to modern technologies, but this exhibition shows there is scope for a genuine balance to be found.”

Envelope will include items sent from across the world, with contributions from Australia, the United States, Japan, Thailand, New Zealand and much of Europe.

Among the most notable names contributing to the exhibition are award-winning British designers Tom Dixon OBE and Michael Marriott, German industrial designer Konstantin Grcic, Japanese furniture designer Tomoko Azumi and Spanish designer Martí Guixé. Dutch trio Marijn Van Oosten, Marcel Wanders and Gijs Bakker also feature, as does New York graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister, and Guardian cartoonist and illustrator Steven Appleby.

The exhibition also features items submitted by young and upcoming designers, including Plymouth University lecturers and graduates such as Sylvia Llecha, Janette Jackson and Justin Floyd.

Sarah Chapman, Director of Peninsula Arts, said:

“Peninsula Arts is delighted to host this important and international exhibition, with many of our leading designers. Envelope particularly demonstrates our commitment to bringing the latest ideas, academic research and enchanting exhibitions to the public of Plymouth.”

Envelope will open in the Peninsula Arts Gallery at Plymouth University on February 14 and runs until March 28. It will include a family activity day on February 21 when people of all ages will be able to design and create their own envelopes using a variety of materials and techniques.

Designers and their items featuring in the Envelope exhibition at Peninsula Arts

  • Envelope Stefan Sagmeister

    Stefan Sagmeister

    Stefan, who sent this foldaway plastic cup, is considered among the most important graphic designers of his generation
  • Envelope Ally Capellino

    Ally Capellino

    Ally is a British designer of classic men's and women's bags and accessories
  • Envelope Helen Yardley

    Helen Yardley

    Textile designer Helen is know for her bright colours and has been working in London for more than 30 years
  • Envelope Hiroko Shiratori

    Hiroko Shiratori

    Tokyo-born Hiroko, a furniture designer, sent us an offcut of wood from her workshop
  • Envelope Hvass and Hannibal

    Hvass and Hannibal

    Nan Na Hvass and Sofie Hannibal established their multi-disciplinary arts and design studio in Copenhagen in 2006
  • Envelope Marijn Van Oosten

    Marijn Van Oosten

    Multi award-winning designer Marijn recently worked on the interior overhaul of Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum
  • Envelope Marti Guixe

    Marti Guixe

    Industrial designer Marti splits his time between Barcelona and Berlin, and works on everything from interior design to food design
  • Envelope Michael Marriott

    Michael Marriott

    Michael graduated in 1993 and is often cited as one of Britain's most highly regarded designers
  • Envelope Phil Cleaver

    Phil Cleaver

    Professor in the Creative Industries at Middlesex University, Phil is also a practising design consultant
  • Envelope Sylvia Llecha

    Sylvia Llecha

    A designer maker, Sylvia studied at Plymouth University and has since established her own practice