Stacy Wolff and Ken Musgrave are leading a design revolution in HP’s personal systems and print divisions, respectively. Wolff, who joined Compaq in 1997 and stayed with HP when the two companies merged in 2001, moved into his current role in 2012, after leading notebook design at the company for a decade. Musgrave joined HP last January, after years spent leading different design groups within Dell and product design and branding at the medical technology company, Becton Dickinson.
Where’s the connection? Both are passionate about designing experiences that will delight HP customers.
What inspired you to become a designer?
Wolff: My dad is an industrial designer, and I was always drawing and doing projects with him—either at home or in his office. It was always: How can you improve something? It was always: If it didn’t exist, let’s make something to do the job.
[Before I really turned to ‘design,’ however] I earned a five-year bachelor of fine arts at Michigan State University. I started in architecture at the University of Miami, and then I went to the University of Detroit. This was back in the early ’80s, and I remember going out and … you had a pretty bad economy at the time, and all the architects said, “Go find something else to do.”
Musgrave: I earned my bachelor of science in industrial design from Auburn University, and I went on to get advanced degrees in design and business from Georgia Tech and the University of Utah.
[Really, though, I] found the profession in high school. I noticed car companies and ski companies were tapping into my emotions and creating all sorts of irrational want. That made me want to learn how they were doing it and how to design the things I loved to use.
How did you find your way to your current role at HP?
Wolff: When Meg Whitman came to the company, I got a call late one night, and the person said, “Be in California the next morning.” I told my wife, “I either got fired, or I got promoted.” As it turned out, I got promoted. Meg said, “We need to make design important.” She wanted to lead with design that was consistent, and she wanted to stand out. We translated that into a design philosophy: We want to be progressive, we want to be harmonious, and we want to be iconic.
Musgrave: It was a role I’d been speaking to HP about off and on for about six years. It wasn’t good timing before, but when the company split and I saw the leadership on the HP Inc. side, I said, “These are people I’d like to work with.” And the fact that HP Inc. was standing itself up as a new company was an interesting challenge. This was something that rarely ever happens, where you get to refocus on the core products. Print hadn’t received the attention many other parts of the business had. It made me feel like there was a lot of opportunity to make an immediate impact, and that was attractive. Ultimately, I felt the business challenges facing HP were also design challenges. The products need to connect with a new type of customer—a digitally-native customer who lives in a mobile world. And there’s an opportunity to re-craft our products in the eyes of this next generation of users.
What opportunities excite you the most?
Wolff: The goal for design is to delight. You want to delight people. It’s indescribable. It’s intangible, but that something is there—how it feels, how it turns on, how it sits, how it articulates, how it sounds. It’s greater than the sum of its parts. You feel it, and you go, “This is right.’”You always ask, “Are we moving forward?” And it feels like the last four years have been light speed. We’ve gone from disorganization and a lack of focus to extreme focus—an almost maniacal focus on making sure the experience is right. What we’re doing today is probably the most exciting time we’ve had. What was declared “the end of the PC” has actually turned into a renaissance of new solutions.
Musgrave: We want to take our printers we have today and bring them into the modern age. First of all, they have to look more appealing. Second, they have to be more appealing in their out-of-box experience. If we have this conversation again in six months, it will be rich with new things for us to share. We’re putting the user at the center of our thinking. We’re wrapping designs and experiences around the customer that have never been thought about in this industry. There is a design revolution coming to print, and it’s just getting started.