Dynamic Duos: Samsung On Global Design Influences

By thinking regionally–and seeking design inspiration from customers and local communities–the Korea-based company has come to dominate the world’s cellular and television markets.

Dynamic Duos: Samsung On Global Design Influences
Boo-Keun Yoon, President & CEO, Consumer Electronics Division Dong-Hoon Chang, Executive Vice President, Head of Design Strategy Team

Boo-Keun Yoon, President & CEO, Consumer Electronics Division
Dong-Hoon Chang, Executive Vice President, Head of Design Strategy Team


Yoon: For me, design is a major priority because I know it’s what will set my business apart. I meet with DH and his design team on an ongoing basis. But to ensure that our design continues to evolve on a broader strategic level, Samsung has created a twice-annual reporting system, which is a more formal way for the design teams to present their ideas and concepts.

I go to great lengths to empower our designers. You never know where the next big idea will come from, so I always encourage my colleagues to speak up when they have an idea.

Chang: Designers have a very intimate communication channel with the CEO and have meetings on a regular basis, more than once a week for ongoing key projects. Because of the emphasis Samsung places on design, I like to run new ideas and concepts past the CEOs for feedback.

Yoon: As a company, we’re curious. We’ve opened design centers around the world that enable us to intimately understand the local culture, the people, lifestyles, and industry trends.

Chang: We don’t subscribe to a one-size-fits-all philosophy. Our products may have to meet specific local needs in different markets, so our new ideas come from experiential visits by designers to towns and cities all over the world. We find inspiration in traveling and watching. The iconic ripple effect when you touch the Galaxy S III screen was inspired by a visit to a rooftop infinity pool in Singapore; the Blue Arctic–colored edition of the Galaxy S 4 by the Norwegian fjords.

Collaboration among our global designers is also a big priority for us. For example, our insight into consumers of Southwest Asia led us to propose a washing machine design that allowed for hand washing before the wash cycle, a common practice in the region. Our designers in India and Japan collaborated to create a lightweight portable design with two drums. Its large wheels allowed consumers to easily roll the machine over to power and water outlets to suit their homes.

Dong-Hoon Chang and Boo-Keun Yoon | Photograph by Dan Pak

Yoon: The Bordeaux TV is a particular source of satisfaction for me. Prior to 2006, we had been wrestling with how to make the TV more than just that black box in the corner of your living room. We eventually drew inspiration from the contours of a wineglass. We found it made an immediate connection with consumers; familiar, reminiscent, warm, and inviting. We sold more than 3 million Bordeaux TVs in the first year and became the world’s No. 1 TV manufacturer–a position we have maintained every year since. I truly believe it was the design of the Bordeaux that led us to be recognized as a global innovator in televisions.

Read more pairings from Fast Company‘s 10th Annual Innovation By Design issue:

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