Somebody said we were allowed to think out loud. Pardon the mess.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Why design makes a difference (subject-post #3,476,922, 805)

Okay, maybe it's only the 3,476,922, 804th time someone has shouted out the amazing idea that in order be different (and therefore more valuable in a consumer's heart and mind), you really have to be come different yourself. In this case, Samsung's remarkable decade-long turnaround. First, the Chief-Chief got pissed wandering a Big Box hell and seeing Samsung products fade into the background. Second, he enfranchises the idea of a "Chief Design Officer." Now, I'm not sure that what the world needs is another C-level, but hey, if he and his group sweeps Product Design shows--and he rattles off cool Confucian quotes like the one highlighted below--well, I'm game.
Q: What kind of programs do you have in place to train your designers?

A: We need the infusion of new blood and ideas. So we send designers with seven or eight years of experience to work abroad in different industries, such as fashion, furniture, and cosmetics, for between six months and two years. Such programs encourage designers to shift their way of thinking. The programs not only benefit individual designers -- when they come back, they spread their ideas around company. There are between 10 and 20 designers going abroad for such programs each year.

Q: Do you feel you still need to change the management of your design operation to continue improving?

A: I believe we have lots of room to improve. Just as a lizard cuts off its own tail to move on, we will have to break with the past to move forward.
Hah! That's from a sidebar interview with Samsung Design Boss, Chung Kook Hyun. A snippet from the main BusinessWeek story on Samsung's evolution from me-too player and a Chairman's epiphany
The change started in 1993, when Chairman Lee Kun Hee visited retailers in Los Angeles and saw that Samsung products were lost in the crowd, while those from Sony Corp. (SNE ) and a few others stood out. So he ordered his managers to concentrate less on cost saving and more on coming up with unique products. The bottom line: Great design could catapult Samsung to the top ranks of global brands.

The boss spoke. Samsung listened. And the company's design push was under way. To attract better, younger designers, Samsung in 1994 moved its design center to Seoul from sleepy Suwon, a small city an hour south of the capital. That same year, Samsung hired U.S. design firm IDEO to help develop a computer monitor -- the first of many such collaborations with IDEO and other leading consultancies. Then in 1995, the company set up the Innovative Design Lab of Samsung (IDS), an in-house school where promising designers could study under experts from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., one of the top U.S. design schools. Samsung designers were dispatched to Egypt and India, Paris and Frankfurt, New York and Washington to tour museums, visit icons of modern architecture, and explore ruins.
Concentrate less on cost saving, and more on value adding--by mining the cultural icons of the world and immersing yourself in other industries? Get the straightjackets! And, for God's sake, somebody find IDEO's address. And an armload of tranquilizer guns.

But first, go read.

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