An Observation On Printers At ITP

I've never really had a great relationship with printers since my father brought our first printer back in the 90s. How ironic that electronics have progressed so much in the last ten years, while printers somehow almost still look and function the same way. There was something about the design of printers that makes them seem so cold, mechanical, even introvert. It would always take me a certain time to figure out how to use one, and each printer has its own particular set of rules. It gets even more scarier if one printer decides to have an error. I remember when I was in college, we had in total eight printers in our library, three of them would be out of service on a rotating turn. Most of the times they were broken because people got frustrated on how to fix the errors and did it the wrong way.

Since I got to ITP, there were so many discussions around how to use the printer in the hallway, I saw a few groups almost trying to dismantle the machine, because they just didn't know how to get it working. So this week I decided to figure out what could be some issues and unlovable characteristics of a printer.

1 The setup process
Setting up any machine or device could be a hassle, however, more and more electronic devices are improving and making the setup process more simple and straightforward. For ITP printers, it's been set up for us already, yet we have to link it to our computer. Although it has little to do with the machine itself, but the experience could have been better. There was only an IP address stuck on the printer, with no instructions or information on what to do with it. I remember having to ask around what secret code that was meant for.

2 The Contact Window  - Screen
Almost every printer has a screen that shows information and also menu/functions/settings, most of them have buttons next to the screen for users to navigate. I find people have to put on their glasses or stick their faces so close to the screen to see what it's showing because the screen is so small. The visual language of printers' systems somehow just stayed in the early 90s, the menus and lists within the screen is far from beautiful and not all the time indicating what's going on clearly. For instance, in the photo above, "show me" can be very confusing.

3 Buttons
For a lot of printers that I have seen, there would be quite many buttons next to the screen, some more minimal than others, some having more than 4 distracting colors. The first time using them is like learning a new small instrument. I wonder if there's a more user friendly way to design it.

If the printer is running fine then there's no hassle. If it runs out of paper, then one has to be familiar and comfortable with opening the tray and filling it up. If it does come to an error, you'll see people in pray of help. 

I imagine a printer that all settings and trouble shooting could be done through an APP or software and the printer could be connected to any devices through Wifi. The printer its self does not require a paper tray, as it could print on any flat surface as it sweeps across the surface.