After months of improvising the tools they needed to work together, the team finds that being back in the office is where they can be most creative and efficient. “Designers are very hands-on,” says Kevin Massaro, vice president of consumer design. “Everything in the studio is tactile.”
Yet, the time spent working remotely produced valuable insights that are informing future products, such as a PC camera disaggregated from the monitor so it can be manipulated to capture something on a person’s desk (like a sketch); super-wide-screen displays with integrated light bars that offer a soft backlight for people working late at night; and monitors that adjust to taller heights, to better accommodate a standing desk.
In recent years, the team has also turned its sights toward defining — and redefining — what sustainable design means for HP. In 2021 HP announced some of the most aggressive and comprehensive climate goals in the technology industry, bringing new complexity — and new gravitas — to what Wolff and his team are aiming to accomplish.
“You’re no longer just a company that’s manufacturing technology, you’re a company that’s helping to better people’s lives,” Wolff says. Working toward HP’s goal to become the most sustainable and just technology company is less about integrating greater percentages of recycled materials into new products, and more about an accounting of the entire life cycle of a device, from the electricity used over its lifetime and the minerals mined for its batteries, to the chemicals used in its painted powder coating and what exactly happens to a product when returned for recycling.
When a customer opens a box made of 100% recycled molded fiber packaging to reveal the premium Elite Dragonfly PC, which made waves for being the first notebook with ocean-bound plastic, that’s where this team’s efforts become tangible.
The Dragonfly isn’t only a triumph of design, it proved that circularity can be an integral part of mass-manufacturing for personal electronics. The third generation of that same device, released in March, raised the bar for battery life and weight with a new process that fuses aluminum and magnesium in the chassis, the latter of which is both lightweight and 100% recyclable.
This was a feat of engineering alchemy, says Chad Paris, global senior design manager. “Not only do you have different properties of how these metals work together, it was a challenge to make sure that it’s seamless,” he says. The team innovated and came up with a thermofusion process that lends a premium feel to the Dragonfly while keeping its weight at just a kilogram.
This inventiveness dovetails with Wolff’s pragmatic approach to sustainability. Not only does each change have to scale for a manufacturer the size of HP, it has to strike the right balance between brand integrity and forward-leaning design. “We can take waste and make great things,” Wolff says, gesturing at a pile of uniform plastic pellets that used to be a discarded bottle. “But ultimately, we want our products to live longer, so we’re designing them to have second lives.”