HP Tango Combines Smart Tech and Style For a Printer That Transcends the Office
We sit down with designer Ken Musgrave to chat about the changing landscape of technology and design—and how it all comes together in the HP Tango.
In today’s evolving world of design, users seek experiences and goods with deeper meaning. A printer is no longer just a printer, but also representative of a lifestyle and identity. There’s perhaps no one who understands this better than Ken Musgrave, head of global customer experience and global experience design at HP.
His expertise lies in adding meaning to user experiences and bringing innovation to unexpected places. Take, for instance, his latest creation: the HP Tango. It’s the world’s first printer for the smart home and part of a greater ecosystem connected to a mobile device. You can print, scan, or copy from virtually anywhere via the HP Smart App, integrating seamlessly with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana for voice-activated printing. At the same time, it also provides an emotional experience thanks to a radically new, reimagined design.
With clean lines and a collection of textile wraps, the Tango truly is beautiful. Influenced by a furniture aesthetic rather than the colder, hard lines that have defined technology, it has the ability to transcend its functional use—and the standard office environment—to meld into multiple decorative tastes and exist closer to where life happens.
"This meant bringing complicity to the complexity and both the physical design and emotional experience," says Ken. "Keeping this in mind, we created Tango with the intent to push the boundaries of the home printing experience in today’s smart lifestyle."
The idea is to showcase tech capabilities to a group of consumers who may not have realized that there’s a product out there for them. As the culture of the workplace shifts and adapts, Musgrave melds modern design and functionality with the goal of "wow-ing even the chicest of home decorators."
How did you get started as a product designer?
The design world has fascinated me from a young age—I always wanted to be a designer. I earned an undergraduate degree in product and industrial design from Auburn University, and then continued to Georgia Tech for design graduate school. While studying, I learned that product design was where I could make a real impact—it’s amazing what thoughtful design can do for functionality and for aesthetics.
My first job was working at Thonet—pioneers of modern furniture design. It was then that I learned to appreciate different textures and finishes—like wood, metal and textiles—and understand how to bring the latest in design trends into homes at scale. It’s fun to consider, later in life, how all those experiences were pivotal in the design approach we took for Tango.
What does good design mean to you?
For me, good design fills a need that’s both pragmatic and emotional. When you create a design that addresses both needs, you’ve accomplished something special.
What is your creative process from the first inkling of an idea to creation? How would you describe your approach to design?
It’s critically important to consider the end user when going through the product design creative process. It’s important to recognize that your design mindset may not always resonate with the end user. We’re often designing for people who live different lives and have different needs than we do; this creates the need for creative exploration and imagination—the ability to picture yourself in somebody else’s life.
Was there an "aha" moment in the design process for HP Tango?
When we started exploring different materials like the wraps, it really started to change perceptions around what a printer looks like and where it belongs in the home. We wanted to be closer to the path of life. That was our "aha" moment. Printers don’t have to take up a huge amount of real estate—nor do they need to be something you hide away. Tango is a new class of printer—powerfully connected and highly stylish. When have you ever heard a printer described as stylish?
Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?
I get my biggest inspiration from my peers and other creative professionals. In the case of Tango, it was a group of my millennial female designer colleagues at HP that told me printers didn’t connect with them. So, I was inspired to work with them to create one that did—the result is Tango.
What is it about HP Tango's look that allows it to blend into a shipping container home, which has a more industrial look, and an eclectic artist's home?
In both of those cases, what’s happening is that something is being reimagined but in a different way, much like the product itself. One way to make a shipping container (which is the definition of industrial) feel welcoming is to soften it by bringing in different textures and materials. What we’ve done with Tango is reimagined the design by taking something that is practical and bringing in textiles, colors and finishes to make it feel more accessible.
With the Tango wrap, the eclectic element can be expressed through whatever wrap fabric that a customer wants to wrap it in. Taking something that’s been long thought of as being one type of use and technology and reimagining it is a powerful thing. The result is a sleek and sophisticated product that was made to fit into very modern and contemporary interior designed living spaces.
What are some trends you’re seeing in the changing landscape of the live/work environment?
People who combine their work and personal lives are living what HP calls "One Life." Fifty-two percent of people own some form of connected device, while 66 percent agree that connected devices have the potential to make their lives easier. As smarter, more connected devices emerged in the home, customers’ expectations have risen on what they expect from their personal electronics. Customers expect their smart devices to be designed to fit within their life, enabling experiences that are relevant to the way they work, and that are simple to use.
What are you currently fascinated by, and how is it feeding into your work?
Currently, the worlds of artificial intelligence and artificial reality fascinate me, and how that can actually impact not just the digital experience but the physical designs as well. AI and AR are all about reducing friction with your life, and that’s what we’ve started to address with Tango. We have only just begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible with this launch.
What was your greatest challenge in designing the HP Tango?
The biggest challenge when designing Tango was figuring out how to integrate the textile wrap, which is soft and not precise, into the world of printing, where preciseness is key.
Who is your design hero?
Charles and Ray Eames are my biggest design heroes because they were able to reimagine and bring a modern new point of view into a place that has been long established and overlooked.
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