Samsung on Design

Samsung launched a website today in an attempt to highlight their design philosophy, presumably to counteract Apple’s assertions in the ongoing Big Company 1 v. Big Company 2 trial. Jony Ive has taken a fair amount of flak for what he’s said in product introduction videos, but it’s nothing on the bullshit Samsung espouses:

Using the idea ‘Make It Meaningful’ as inspiration, we wanted to create a platform to present influential design stories and solutions to be shared around the world. Samsung Electronics’ introduces the meaningful stories behind the design of their products as they strive to create the culture of tomorrow.

Seems confused to me. Perhaps it needs more buzzwords?

Samsung believes in the value of people’s dreams. Therefore, our design should begin with empathy for people’s lives.

I have no idea what that means. I understand what all the words mean, but I don’t understand how Samsung is applying this to industrial and interface design. Maybe it’ll be clearer when it’s explained in the context of a specific product like, I dunno, the Galaxy S4:

Sensory Organic

The design of the Galaxy S4 is an organic combination of rational form and emotional CMF (Color, Material, and Finish).

Still confused.

Contrast, if you will, to the oft-parodied style1 of a Jony Ive video, like the one for the iPad Air. After talking about the engineering required to make it smaller and lighter, Ive explains why this engineering was necessary:

There’s a simplicity to it, but there’s nothing precious about it. This integrity — this durability — inspires confidence in a product that’s meant to be taken places, handled, and really used.

I think this is the essential difference between the two approaches. Good design — like that from Apple — starts with the end goal of how a product will be used, and what the customer will gain from owning and using the product. Poor design doesn’t necessarily consider this, and hopes to justify its choices after those decisions have been made. In other words, the choices are arbitrary, or made with a goal not necessarily driven by the usage of the product. For example, Samsung may choose to make their phones primarily from plastic because it simplifies the production process. But a user doesn’t care about the production process; they’re interested only in how they use the product. Good design is concerned primarily with its function.

  1. I love that parody so much. ↥︎