In 1994, the government of Korea declared the opening of a Design Era to mark the recognition of design as a competitive advantage for the nation. Shortly thereafter, Samsung Group Chairman Kun Hee Lee announced a Year of Design Revolution for Samsung Group, in which he pledged to initiate major design-related programs as strategic tools for growth, and Samsung Electronics designated $126 million to develop a comprehensive global design program by the end of the decade.
Samsung Electronics already accounted for a large share of the world's DRAM chip market, and they were a major OEM supplier of monitors and other components. Now they hoped to develop a complete range of their own end-products using proprietary core technology. They wanted to be known as an innovative, first-class product leader across global markets.
The story of that journey is narrated here by design strategist Tom Hardy, with Samsung executive design director Kook Hyun Chung and senior manager of corporate design planning Shin T. So.
The first step toward Samsung's goal was to create a "definable, repeatable, and measurable corporate-wide process" to ensure fulfillment of the Samsung Electronics brand promise. This would require the establishment of a shared philosophy and set of day-to-day working principles. After much thought and discussion, Balance of Reason and Feeling was chosen to set the tone and manner for product design and graphic communications. It was an idea that incorporated some of the basic beliefs that already existed at Samsung: offering products and services with outstanding features and a high level of convenience; encouraging employees to develop both knowledge and technological skills; contributing to the development of a better world. Six "guiding principles" (for instance, to balance consistency with variety, harmonize with the environment, and design for experience) were developed as consistent characteristics to be embodied in every Samsung product, and a common "design language" was adopted to incorporate the specific rational, emotional, and self-expressive benefits of target customers.
Samsung also created a Lifestyle Research Group to identify user behavior and unmet needs across global markets, as well as a Materials and Finishes Group that would focus on innovative materials, finishes, and color applications across product lines. An Advanced Design Group allows interdisciplinary teams to explore new product concepts that are routinely presented to senior management. Samsung has also inaugurated an annual design competition and opened it to all its designers.
These efforts are bearing fruit. Samsung has won much recognition as well as 10 IDEA awards in the past two years. BusinessWeek, in a 1997 article, called Samsung "the hungriest tiger."
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