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Color It User Friendly

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Making copies can be frustrating, even maddening. Either the wrong paper is loaded in the bin, or the toner is running low, or the machine is set to reduce everything by 40%. And punching all those little buttons never seems to get the right results. Throw in the complexity of color copying, and you're talking real stress. Xerox Corp. engineers have heard it all. So in 1988, they set out to design a walk-up-and-use copier. Last September, they introduced the Xerox 5775 Digital Color Copier--a friendlier and much smarter machine.

The key is a color touch-screen that sits on top of the machine and makes you smile even before you start: Its display of editing icons includes a light bulb inside a person's head. Touch it, and it allows you to use electronic "cut and paste" to merge one original with another or color-fill a pie chart.

DETOUR. And when that bugaboo of copiers--a paper jam--happens, not to worry. Doors in the front of the machine open, and the paper-handling system slides forward, exposing color-coded prompts that show a novice just how to clear jams.

From the beginning, the team of Xerox designers knew they wanted to employ a touch-screen monitor rather than to use digital readouts and buttons, says Gilbert Hatch, chief engineer of the color development department. "We wanted a person to be able to walk up and make copies, and that drove us into an on-line help system, where pressing an information button will bring up a set of help screens. That was one of the key design elements."

But there was a detour on the way. The first screen was black and white. To choose a color, a person would have touched a block that said "red" or "green." Tryouts with focus groups showed that color display would make a huge difference: It was able to get information across faster and more accurately, reducing the time spent on each task. So Xerox added a more expensive color screen, and people now see squares of color--labeled for the color-blind--to choose from.

The 5775 is a $46,500 production machine that makes 7.5 full-color copies a minute. You're not likely to find it down the hall, although it can link up to PCs or Macintoshes to act as a color printer. Its target market is corporate print shops, copy shops, commercial printers, and large marketing departments. But Xerox set out to make the machine easy to use and even inviting for anyone. The front of the machine is a "gentle curve--very subtle," says Hatch. "Our products in the future are going to be gentler, rounder."Barbara Carlson in Stamford

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