If our office is any indication, printer use is on the decline. (Some of us wouldn’t know how to find the printer, let alone how to connect to it.) That’s in part because we’ve adjusted to working and communicating on screens, but it’s also because they’re damned frustrating to use. Command one to print a short email, and what you get is microscopic type and four pages of ads—that is, if you get it to work at all. 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.
At the heart of the SWYP (See What You Print) is a large touchscreen that allows users to see and manipulate on a 1:1 scale what the finished result will look like before hitting "print." Pictures and documents can be previewed and edited, and unwanted areas, like those irritating margin ads, can be removed by "swyping" them off the screen. Users can also bypass the computer altogether by seamlessly connecting their camera, phone, or tablet to the printer. Once connected, they can select and crop photos with their fingers.
To us, one of the most impressive features is the folding paper tray, which has the simple genius of the iPad screen flap. The thin, fabric-lined aluminum sheet neatly folds up when not in use; the well-placed creases make it rigid enough to hold paper when unfolded.
In devising the prototype, Artefact used existing technologies, but it has no intention of manufacturing SWYP. Rather, the designers’ primary objective is to provoke the industry to revisit a piece of technology that has drastically fallen behind the times. Asked whether he was concerned someone might steal features like the novel paper tray, Artefact’s director of design, Fernd van Engelen, replied: "No, as long as they give us credit."