The best design is about creating a seamless experience, says Samsung’s design chief

Samsung’s design chief
Don-Tae Lee, executive vice president and head, corporate design centre, Samsung Electronics, speaks at the Brainstorm Design conference in Singapore on 7 March 2018.
(Image credit: Stefen Chow / Fortune)

If good design is about creating a seamless experience, there are few who understand this better than Samsung’s executive vice president Don-Tae Lee, who spoke with Time Inc. executive editor Clay Chandler at the Brainstorm Design conference in Singapore on Wednesday 7 March.

‘We always think of how we can create sense of seamlessness and cohesiveness across our products so we can deliver a singular experience to consumers,’ Lee said. As the head of Samsung’s seven corporate design centre studios (only his second job, Chandler noted), Lee oversees a staff of over 1,500 designers working to harmonise Samsung’s diverse family of products — from smartphones and TVs to home appliances and computing devices. When a customer is using a Samsung product, Lee said, the experience must be identifiable as one that flows from a Samsung product. ‘That’s the kind of seamless experience we try to achieve,’ he told Brainstorm Design.

Lee joined Samsung in 2015 from London-based design firm Tangerine, his first stop in the design world. The company also famously produced Apple design mastermind Jony Ive.

Samsung was then reeling, battling smartphone rivals Apple in a costly lawsuit and seeing off competition from Chinese upstarts Xiaomi, and Huawei. The South Korean tech and electronics giant’s last quarter profits dropped 37 per cent in 2014, while reviews found its flagship smartphone a lackluster reboot of the S4.

Lee has since overseen a reinvention of Samsung’s design identity by helping ‘move the brand of Samsung’ from being a technology-driven company to being ‘a user-and life-style centric brand.’ The company is also stepping up to competitors Apple and Google in the next major tech battlegrounds: smart home appliances like the Frame TV, a new television that’s ‘designed as a beautiful object, whether turned on or off,’ Lee said, after Samsung learned that most consumers spend four hours per day watching TV — meaning 20 hours per day, the television was turned off. ‘We realised that the TV needs to be branded into the home environment,’ Lee said, by allowing users to customise their ‘off’ display with famous pieces of art, or family photos.

The Brainstorm Design conference is jointly organised by Fortune, TIME and Wallpaper*, bringing together more than 300 top speakers and delegates from 33 countries. See more here


For more information, visit the Samsung website and the Brainstorm Design website


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