In fact, they imagine its versatility will be so great that they’ve engaged the public in a spirited conversation about the product’s development. Thousands of people responded to the video about the Little Printer. They asked questions, pitched ideas and made up stories about how it would be used. All this, even though the printer doesn’t yet exist.
CEO Matt Webb says BERG created the Little Printer to connect the paper world with the digital world. It’s also become an interesting case study of the modern path to market for products and the power of new, more personal forms of advertising, which Webb recently discussed. The transcript was lightly edited for length and clarity:
Where did you come up with the idea of the Little Printer?
So as a design studio, we play with lots of technologies, and one of the things we were playing with was thermal printers. Now another thing we care a lot about is the Web and making things social and live. When you mention something on Facebook, it’s different from sending a postcard because it becomes something which has comments, and your friends are involved. And so we thought, why not put these two things together?
But we’ve also done a bunch of work with magazines and newspapers and slowly we realized that what the great thing about little printer was the cloud, you know, the Internet. Connected to the Internet, it could do a bunch of work for you to edit down the information into what matters most — which is really important for a piece of paper because you want to make sure it doesn’t use too much. And that it’s really spot on.
So then we realized that what little printer was doing wasn’t just printing out the Internet, it was printing you a miniaturized, personal newspaper. And once we realized that, then it became a catalyst — making really great tiny publications from loads of different sources that you could put together in whichever way you wanted.
How did you and your colleagues get involved with product development?
We regard a design studio as a group of people with loads of different skills who can scratch a lot of different interests and work on many different projects, all at once. And actually, that’s the benefit — I don’t think we would have had the idea for Little Printer if we weren’t also working with clients like Intel and Google and the BBC.
What companies are you working with?
So we’re initially working with a great group of launch partners, Google, the Guardian, FourSquare, Nike and ARUP. ARUP is an architecture and engineering company — they’re really interested in what happens when the technology behind the little printer starts going into buildings. When we announced Little Printer in the closing months of 2011, the response was tremendous. I think we had a million and a half views on the announcement film so far, which is astounding for a tiny company. So what we decided to do is when we come out, we’re going to make it very easy for all kinds of publishers and service providers to create publications for the Little Printer.