Melissa Gunner

Intrigued by the Little Printer’s blending of the analogue/offline with digital content publication, Paul and I recently got our hands on BERG’s Little Printer. Our fabulous intern Melissa Gunner (pictured left) organized an internal event to help the AQ team learn more about the ideas behind it, and brainstorm over usage possibilities in different social contexts. Here is her report.

Imagine one week…

Hurrying out on a Monday morning – throwing a coat on, stuffing your shoes on and tearing a small sheet of paper from a mini printer by the door – with an inspirational list of the top art/fashion/music events happening in your city that day, slipped into your pocket for a later perusal.

Receiving a short note to your bedside table, once a week on a Tuesday, reminding you gently of your lifelong dream to travel to Mongolia, and the current airfare to get you there, should you choose, this day of all days, to take that one step closer to action.

Assembling your things for work on a Wednesday, and glancing at the daily cute-but-sad mug shot for a missing cat, or dog, or household rabbit – lost in the neighbourhood and looking to be recognised that day.

Taking your Thursday tea break with a paper snippet featuring a randomly selected brew – some specialty of some far-flung region of the world.

Every Friday morning, receiving the square of paper containing your favourite celebrity chef’s musings on this week’s seasonal produce, and stowing that paper away for a trip to the market after work (…where you stumble across a cat, produce a two-day-old slip of paper from your wallet and confirm the match – lost but found!)

Sitting down bleary-eyed to your kitchen table on a Saturday, and reaching across to tear off a sheet entitled “Science Tips for the Day: the best and quirkiest ways to wake yourself up in the morning!”

Or, on Sundays, seating your uncooperative child down at the printer that looks like a smiley-faced, friendly toy, and having them press the button that prints their “trivia question for the day” (if they’re lucky) or their “household chore for the day” (if they’re not!)

Tokyo Art Beat on the Little Printer Image from Rev Dan Catt, edited by F. Mullen for the AQ Little Printer presentation

These are visions inspired by the recent acquisition of BERG’s “Little Printer”, and the meeting of AQ minds over a brief introduction to the product, a discussion of the big ideas behind it, and some well-timed lunch.

The product in question is a small cube with little orange feet and a cute, smiling face: a thermal printer which prints its black and white “receipts” of information sent to it by online publications.

Configured with a smartphone, a web-app and Cloud technology, the Little Printer (absent computer and ink) relies on the Internet to deliver such things as headlines from the Guardian newspaper, quirky illustrations of monsters or “ridiculous birds of New Zealand”, social updates from Foursquare, to-do lists, puzzles and Instagram “pictures of the day”…

With just such a collection of delights growing from a pillar in the AQ office, the time was ripe for a formal induction.

Internal event in our new floor

BERG, the London-based design consultancy/web-based products company, released their Little Printer to much fanfare late last year. The most interesting thing for AQ was not so much the use and capabilities of the product itself (now sat smiling in the corner of the office), but its implications – the concept of harnessing digital information to produce sharable, disposable printouts.

What does it mean to take digital online publications, then, purposefully and selectively, have them in physical, printed form?

In the ideal venue of AQ’s (very pretty) new conference room, the meeting began with a presentation on:

  • BERG’s thinking behind the product (why the Little Printer, and where does BERG plan to go with it?)
  • The reception since its release (positive and negative; from social media to international publications to design awards)
  • The various ways in which it has been adopted (both by publishers and by the private consumer)
  • Some interesting projects by other parties (the newest and quirkiest publications on BERG Cloud)
  • The potential for collaborating between Little Printer and organising cultural event outings (namely, via Tokyo Art Beat)

BERG’s “Incidental Media” concept sparked discussions: the inspiration behind the Little Printer, it aims to create media that is more pervasive in daily life, in the least obtrusive way possible. The idea, put simply, is that media should be everywhere, so much so that it goes unnoticed – friendly, ambient and incidental to our lives – there if and when we choose to take notice of it, and use it.

Microsoft’s “Productivity Vision” video for the future provided an interesting contrast to that represented by the Little Printer, sitting quietly on the desk whilst we tossed ideas around the room.

(See also this summary of the “tiny-printer trend” from Wired magazine in April last year, in the midst of the hyped lead-up to the Little Printer’s release.)

Pairing off and brainstorming

Post-presentation, it was time for some lunch (Thai and delicious, courtesy of Tahiti), and some group-based activity:

First, we took six ways in which a device such as the Little Printer might pass digital information:

Worksheets

Me → Me

Me → Mass

Me → You

Me → My/Your Group

Publication → Me

Publication → Mass

Having split into six teams, the next step was to choose a context – the Little Printer was to be based either:

(a) in the entranceway of your home, or

(b) on your bedside table.

With that, each team could brainstorm the possible ends for which the device might be used, and the content it might print…

In testament to the brilliant involvement of all who came along, ideas were abundant (and time, as always, the constraint).

Aside from those that inspired the hypothetical week above, team suggestions included sending special pictures or text to be printed by the bed of a distant loved-one (from “me to you”), or having recent political outcomes, traffic updates or sales coupons printed in the entranceways of every person in the area (“publication to mass”).

Ever creative, our discussions finally came to a light-hearted close (whether or not a husband might need the Little Printer to produce notes of apology or bashful request to communicate with his angry wife, for one, remains to be seen).

Our gathering returned to the tasks of the afternoon, and the Little Printer to its home in the office. Officially.

Epilogue

Since the Day of Induction, Little Printer has moved: now settled-in on the third level of the main office bookshelf, it seems to have upscaled to a prime, central location, right in the hub of AQ activity, with perfect views onto the display-pillar of its very own publications (amassing by the day).

Little Printer is placed at eye-height in our office

Scribble!

It almost looks happier than ever before…

Thank you very much to Tomomi, Paul and the AQ team!