Very few people would disagree that consumer printers are stagnant. The advance of digital technologies, increasing printing costs and ecological concerns paint a bleak future for the printer as we know it today. Yet, you won’t hear people lament the loss of the printer, nor profess any emotional attachment to it as as they do with other digital victims such as books, CDs, Vinyl, etc. The main reason is that, even today, consumer printing is still a complicated and painful experience.
The issue with printers is not that we lack the necessary technology, but rather that the core design and usability issues have not been fully addressed. Traditional OEMs are making incremental improvements end up over-complicating what should be a simple process and producing over-bloated boxes that sit in our shelves.
So we decided to explore how to innovate printers.
Our initial design explorations yielded futuristic printer concepts such a “printing home hub,” a “Roomba printing device,” and other concepts that are 5-10 years out; but in the end we chose to focus our design work on a solution that that is near-term and breathes new life into this humble “peripheral” by radically simplifying it.
Introducing SWYP (See What You Print)
A concept to bring the printer to the 21st century, by stripping it down of its cumbersomeness.
Design principle: Radical simplicity.
Radically simple editing and printing: show people exactly what the printed page will look like, and make it as simple as possible to edit and format the print. When you print only what you intend, you eliminate the frustration and waste of unwanted prints.
- Margins and scaling can be easily previewed and edited on the touch-screen before printing. Just like you would do with the real paper.
- Color results become predictable with a screen that is always calibrated to the printer.
- Unwanted print areas are easily spotted and can be removed by simply ‘swyping’ it off the screen.
Connectivity made relevant.
With SWYP, we radically simplified the connectivity features of the printer. We provided the quickest way to get printouts from multiple sources and enable the user to select those.
- Printing from a camera becomes straightforward even without a computer. The camera connects wirelessly to the printer and images can be selected, arranged and lightly edited in seconds.
- You can personalize
settingsthe start screen and create a network of personal devices or online sources for direct printing.
- You can directly connect to Facebook photo stream and Flickr to print photos.
Radically simple box.
The ideas of radical simplicity also extend to the box itself. We focused on the utilitarian aspects of the printer: opening the lid for scanning, easy access to the paper tray and easy access to ink cartridges. We made every effort to strip it down to the essentials and resisted the temptation to add extraneous details. In the process we believe we achieve a beauty that only simplicity can deliver. The hardware design embraces the basic expression of the printer as a box and, in the process takes on the proportions of a ream of paper (we though that was an appropriate metaphor).
- Paper tray: on most current printers the paper trays become very cumbersome complicated parts. With SWYP, the paper tray is very simple, but at the same time a very ingenious and innovative feature to the product. The paper tray with its fabric covered inside relies on the fabric’s material properties to create a hinge. It folds to stow neatly on top of the printer. When you unfold it, its geometry is such that it becomes a rigid tray. Reminiscent of origami, it is minimal and elegant, yet exciting and approachable.
- Peek inside: selecting the ink icon lets the interface fade away and reveals the inside of the printer with ink level and inserted paper type information augmented on top of it.
- No on/off button: the act of opening or closing the paper tray turns the printer on or off.
SWYP illustrates that it is possible to innovate in very mature and stagnant markets. By re-thinking the product and focusing on core issues it is possible to revitalize a product that has lost its consumer appeal.
Photos by Doug Evans: http://www.evansphoto.com/