Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

1 minute read

Why Can't All Printers Be This Charming?

Printer companies, take note.

  • 01 /08
  • 02 /08
  • 03 /08
  • 04 /08
  • 05 /08
  • 06 /08
  • 07 /08
  • 08 /08

I see a briefcase. A film camera. A roll of Bounty. I see pretty much anything but your typical HP printer. And for the first time in decades, I kinda want to buy a printer again.

This is Paper, a conceptual printer by designer Ludwig Rensch, highlighted on Designboom. Paper flips the typical flatbed printer/scanner on its side, sucking in paper not from a large stack, but from a single roll that’s cut a slice at a time. It features one switch to "scan" or "copy," clear LEDs to indicate ink levels, and a handle on top so you can pick it up on a whim.

It’s easy to see how the tactility of this printer was inspired by the Olivetti Valentine typewriter (1968) and the iMac (1998), both of which used bright plastic and grippy handles to appear inviting, even if they were never lifted from a desk once placed there. Likewise, the single paper roll is the same approach in Berg’s Little Printer (2012), which, instead of full-sized paper, used a receipt roll to print out high bulk, low-cost messages.

Rensch doesn’t hide these influences. In fact, he keeps adding more when discussing his work. "I was inspired by the contemporary aesthetics of the web and apps," he continues. "Flat design. I wanted to make a product of the future, but it shouldn’t be blue and translucent like an item of Star Trek. So I asked myself, how would a company like Google design my printer if it was an app? Some really interesting ideas came from that interdisciplinary approach." Indeed, Paper has a certain curvy naïveté that would make it half-convincing as a Material Design icon.

Unfortunately, Paper is far from ready for market. Rensch has done tests to ensure that this rolled paper approach wouldn’t bend print-outs beyond recognition. However, he’s not completely certain that the printer heads and arms in your standard inkjet would squeeze inside. That's a major caveat, and even if they did, there’s one last big hurdle in his way: companies like HP or Epson can sell you printers cheap because they subsidize the hardware with incredibly expensive ink. Rensch is nowhere near putting a retail price on Paper, but suffice it to say, without HP’s ink money, you’d have to pay a real premium for the design.

The Fast Company Innovation Festival