At Galaxy Unpacked 2023 in Korea, Hitech Century was given the exclusive opportunity to interview the MX (Mobile eXperience) Design Team that were instrumental to the distinctive design of Samsung’s latest foldables at their Seoul R&D Campus.
A panel from the MX Design Team, consisting of Hubert H. Lee Head of MX Design Team ; Henry Kim, Head of Design Strategy; Tae-Joong Kim, Head of Foldable Smartphone Design and Hyoung-shin Park, Head of CMF Design fielded questions and shared greater insight on the intricate process of creating a next generation foldable especially in regards to the Galaxy Z Fold5 and Galaxy Z Flip5 design philosophy where every aspect of design is considered .
Q: What is the cornerstone of Samsung’s design philosophy?
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Hubert Lee: For a brand to be successful we need a concrete design philosophy. It is for ourselves, our designers, our mindset and something we need to think about before putting pen to paper and it becomes a foundation to what we do. We need to get to the core of what the design is and what we want to do. In this case, simple is always better but we have to base it on concrete design philosophy.
Since 1996, Samsung’s smartphone design has been defined by the philosophy of ‘Inspired by Humans, Creating the Future’ which is very much valid today. This philosophy still works today and is ahead of its time and Samsung has been making phones for a long time, spanning 35 years which is pretty amazing seeing as the first Samsung phone was launched in 1988. It’s a rich legacy of innovation that we aim to honour and expand upon.
Good design needs to be composed of 3 key elements – purpose, authenticity and confidence. By purpose, it is basically what we are designing it for, what is the intention when and before we design it because it becomes a foundation which leads to authenticity.
By authenticity, it means embodying our own thing, our own character, aesthetics, colour and brand and it is critical in what defines our devices and our identity. With purpose and authenticity combined, we can execute a design with confidence. With confidence in our designs, we can do what we believe in, which is where good design comes from as we do what we believe.
Our main takeaway today is creating and enhancing desirability through identity. We believe that this is the most important thing in and for the future. We also believe in originality by sticking to our own DNA of who we are, where we’ve been and where we want to go as our core foundation.
To stand out from other OEMs, we need to be recognisable as a Galaxy product and anyone who sees our product recognises it instantly from across the room and that it represents Samsung. A product also needs to reflect the current times today and if a brand is not able to follow this, it is going to be in trouble. For us, we try to reflect as much as possible on what is going on today and what will happen in the future.
The Galaxy S series represents a premium standard with a camera layout that captures the most essential elements, creating an identity that is extended across the entire Galaxy ecosystem. In the case of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold, it has been designed to be more supreme in all aspects while the Galaxy Z Flip is designed to be more expressive.
When users see and use our products, what we would love to hear are ‘Galaxy devices are cool’. That would be the biggest satisfaction to us.
Q: Can you elaborate more on this philosophy behind the Galaxy Z Fold5 and Galaxy Z Flip5 design?
Henry Kim: Design is a process of problem solving and a manifestation of intent. In this regard, we have to provide a solution as to what is the value of existence of this product we create and how can this product provide a better future for human beings. Design also applies to visual communication too.
We take care to introduce visual elements such as colour to our products such as the Galaxy Z Fold5 and Galaxy Z Flip5 design language. Our goal is to translate the beauty of the product in the most sophisticated way but at the same time distinguish it and how awesome the design is. In this case, simple is better all the time and the most sophisticated solution in engineering is to get there with the least amount of resources. The same thing can be done with 100 lines of code but 10 would be better.
Q: What lessons were learned from previous Galaxy Z Fold and Flip series foldables and improved upon in the Galaxy Z Fold5 and Flip5 design?
Kim Tae-Joong: Let me give you a big overall picture. In the process of developing the next generation of Folds and Flips, we always consider the customer and user experience and factor in the voices and feedback of customers.
I think you already know well what kind of the differences and what changes that we have made for example from the Flip4 to the Flip5 or the Fold4 to Fold5, those differences that you found are basically the things that we are making efforts to improve further.
We constantly strive to further improve the next generation of foldables as we listen to the voices of users so that we can make the product more complete to the consumer.
Q: The new colourways in the Galaxy Z Flip5 and the Galaxy Z Fold5 are eye-catching and beautiful. How were these colours derived and what are the considerations of implementing a new set of colours for a new product line such as the latest foldables for 2023?
Hyoung-shin Park: Colour, Materials and Finish (CMF) design is a specialised aspect of design that emphasises colours and finishes. In CMF Design, we design the visual, tactile and sensorial experience of a user based on Essential design via a multi-step creative process.
Firstly, we seek inspiration, interview experts and perform extensive trends research. We look, feel and observe all things new and beautiful and also take field trips to experience the latest CMF trends in multiple industries with our designs beginning in our imagination and how this would be translated into our products.
For the second step, we then work with global trend experts to extract candidate trend colours for consideration in our workshops. Thirdly, we assess the candidate colours and then consider other factors as well such as durability and manufacturability, sustainability and eco-conscious colour methods as well as form and performance requirements such as in the Galaxy Z Fold5 and Galaxy Z Flip5 design.
In addition to colour, we also work on other materials and finish designs in parallel as there are multiple factors to consider including form and performance requirements with multiple prototypes and product tests to ensure viability for candidate colours and designs with a long term road map in mind. Finally, we create the final design mock-ups and present them to the business division to confirm their launch to the global market.
For the new Galaxy Z Fold5 and Galaxy Z Flip5 designs for 2023, the CMF theme is Future Nature. For Future Nature, we are offering bright, vibrant colours that reflect the hope and longing for a long life together with Mother Nature for our online-exclusive colours while we offer cool, refreshing colours to signify the colours of the sea for our standard colourways as part of the Future Nature theme.
Our signature colour for the Galaxy Z Flip5 design which is Mint gives an energetic feeling with a fresh identity inspired by the ocean on a clear day. For the signature colour of the new Galaxy Z Fold5 which is Icy Blue, we aim to represent mysterious glass like that of a cool blue ocean with a clean, luxurious vibe.
Q: The new Future Nature themed colours are very attractive for the new Galaxy Z Fold5 and Galaxy Z Flip5 designs but have you considered brighter, more vibrant colours?
Hubert: I love vibrant colours and it makes products look youthful and exciting but the reality is that a lot of people in the world are more conservative than we think and in terms of sales, it’s usually always black that does the best so we can’t justify a vibrant colour.
It’s tricky, but we are always going to try to make our colours interesting, appealing and desirable. A lot of your guys reacted positively to the vibrant online colours and these positive reactions we can take it farther to our product management and say look – people like these colours, not just black.