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Moving to the Dark Side: The ProLiant Visual Language

In the first couple of blogs showcasing the engineering excellence that goes into the HP ProLiant server line, we talked about how we deliver innovative solutions to the challenges of server energy efficiency.


Today, we shift gears slightly and talk about the look and feel of the servers themselves, and how HP goes about ensuring the server room is a cool environment in more ways than one.


George Daniels, Design Navigator for the HP Enterprise Design and Experience Center talks about the evolution of ProLiant and how human factors impact the overall experience:


"Our Enterprise Experience Design team is responsible for developing the overall “look and feel” of HP’s Enterprise products. Look and feel is really a “visual language”, much like a spoken language that conveys meaning to people.   Our current visual language, code named Transformer, provides a consistent customer experience through the use of unique colors, forms and motion.


Transformer invites you in and engages you by directing your attention to areas of contact and interaction. Touch points are consistently marked with contrasting colors and form, clearly communicating cold plug and hot plug functionality, or merely differentiating a touch point from the background.


Contrary to popular belief, form and color are not randomly chosen, nor is it a function of “hot style”. Enterprise products, in comparison to consumer products, must live a long life in a customer’s data center. Therefore we cannot fall prey to the color Fashionista.


Historically, enterprise products from most companies were a form of beige, as were all computer products. More recently (in the last 5-10 years), HP and others have moved to “the Dark Side”, meaning to various shades of black and dark gray, with metallics and functional colors like port (a purple color communicating hot plug) and slate blue (a blue color communicating cold plug).


Besides unifying the customer experience, the purpose of the Transformer visual language was to communicate HP’s brand attributes. Sophisticated colors, metallic finishes and clean lines communicate quality, power and value.


Transformer was also a response to the need to unify two different product lines from HP and Compaq when the two companies merged in 2003. The HP enterprise products were still a form of beige while Compaq’s had just gone to “the Dark Side” using shades of dark gray and black. It became my job to convince the new HP enterprise management that we needed to change from a “stodgy” beige color to the more “high tech” appearing dark colors. This was not only the right thing to do for customers, but by unifying all of the HP products into a single color palette it would reduce overall costs as well.


However, the General Manager of those products that had remained beige, had just changed from one beige color to another beige color and didn’t want anything to do with the cost of doing this again. Of course when he saw the big picture and understood the value prop he dropped his resistance. A year or so later, he became the Sr. VP for all of HP’s Enterprise Business and whenever he came to Houston, he would remind me….George, you aren’t changing colors again are you???"


To hear more from George and our engineers around X86 server innovation please visit the ProLiant 20th Anniversary site, and see some great content including videos of the team themselves talking about the sharp end of development with HP.

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