SWYP: See What You Print

Reimagining the Stale Printer

They say simplicity is brilliance…and so we set out to simplify a clunky, complicated, and often-wasteful printing process through design, utility, and efficiency. The result: SWYP (See What You Print) – a radically simple concept for printing.

While many companies believe innovation means adding more features, we believed innovation could come from better core features. As we started to rethink the printer, our guiding design principle to this stagnant and overlooked peripheral was radical simplicity.

The concept we landed on was a large, 1:1 scale touch-screen, giving the user the ability to see and manipulate the finished result—before it was printed.

Traditional original equipment manufacturers (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.

"A new printer concept from Artefact, a Seattle-based design firm, radically streamlines the device, packing an intuitive user interface into a radically simplified box design that would appeal to design god Dieter Rams." Belinda Lanks,fastCompany, April 20, 2011
"Buck has come up with a printer concept that’s unlike any out there. His idea, which Artefact is showing off in a video, looks like a printer that Apple might someday actually make." Jay Green, Cnet
"The fantastic interactivity aside, the SWYP concept is beautifully designed. Compact, sleek, and elegant, the printer’s form strays drastically from contemporary ink-jet space hogs." Greg Stefano, Cool Hunting

You don’t often hear people giving rave reviews of their printers; waste comes in paper and ink, connectivity breeds frustration, ink prices continually increase, and ecological concerns point to a time past.

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 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.

Our challenge was to take these considerations into account while staying focused on making all aspects of the printing interaction more natural, predictable, and intuitive.

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.

With our design we intended to 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.

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.

We believe with this process 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.

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.

On-screen Manipulation

The touch screen display allows you to manipulate, crop, rotate, and edit the images directly on the 1x1 display ratio shows you exactly what will print.

Elegant Paper Tray

Minimal and reminiscent of origami, a, hinged foldable paper tray stows neatly on top of the printer; when unfolded its geometry is such that it becomes a rigid tray. Opening or closing the paper tray turns the printer on or off.

An Insider’s View

When the ink icon is selected, the interface fades to reveal inside-the-printer information such ink levels and paper quality, as well as commands and navigation.

Simple Connectivity

Easily print from your most relevant sources like mobile devices, cameras, and libraries such as Flickr and Facebook.


Through secondary research we assessed the landscape of the consumer printing industry and studied several technologies and use cases that we then projected in order to visualize the changing dynamics and identify the opportunities for innovation.


Through a series of brainstorming exercises we generated over 100 concepts, 16 of those we visualize in low-fidelity renders.


We selected a concept that was possible to realize with today’s technology but had the ability to capture our vision of innovating the printer. Through a series of rough prototypes, we refined the industrial and interaction models and produced a CAD file for an appearance model.


We filmed a video showcasing a person printing photos from a recent Artefact event at our beloved Sounders soccer game. In it she quickly manipulates the photos on screen selecting portions and changing the resolution settings to save ink and then the picture prints out as seen on the screen.