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Understanding human desire crucial to mass market appeal: Samsung design school chief

June 30, 2022 - 15:33 By Son Ji-hyoung
Lee Don-tae, president of Samsung Art and Design Institute, speaks at a seminar during Global Business Forum hosted by The Korea Herald. (The Korea Herald)
As consumers tend to buy products based on their experience, a product designer should understand the basic needs of a human to come up with a creative design that catapults a product’s mass market appeal, head of a design school under South Korea‘s largest conglomerate told a conference Wednesday.

Lee Don-tae, president of Samsung Art and Design Institute, speaking at The Korea Herald’s Global Business Forum in Seoul, said the key to achieve design originality for commercial products is to understand both transient trends of consumers and the underlying human desire that has taken shape for thousands of years.

“There are two types of values a human pursues: Long-lasting value shaped by the basic needs of a human, and fast-changing trend that even designers struggle to keep pace with,” said Lee, formerly head of corporate design center at Samsung.

“A designer will be able to set a new trend once the product design lays its strong basis on long-lasting value, and at the same time adapts to the fast-changing trend.”

For example, Samsung Electronics‘ signature Bespoke refrigerators reflect Korean households’ desire to change the colors of the product frequently within its lifecycle as they move in and out. More than four out of 10 households nationwide rent a house and are often forced to move out when their contract expires, the government data showed.

This means those who aspire to have refrigerators that go well with the new space will no longer need to buy a new product, and can instead choose from nearly 400 choices simply by replacing the refrigerator door panels when they move, according to Lee.

Moreover. Samsung Electronics’ “The Frame” TV lineup, which digitally displays art pieces when a TV is turned off, stemmed from the company‘s observations that a household on average leaves their TV idle for at least 20 hours a day.

Outside Samsung, which employs 7,000 design-related staff worldwide, Lee credited Peloton Interactive’s unique designs of a stationary bicycle and fitness software for the early-stage success of the US-based company. Lee said that behind the explosive popularity of the concept of the connected fitness is the way it changed the nature of indoor cycling -- bikers tend to feel like they are left alone in a confined space, and they did not quite like it.

“A designer‘s job is to understand human being, explore the context of a human experience based on his or her understanding of human being, and to suggest a creative solution to a problem,” Lee said.

Moreover, Lee said it is crucial for an entrepreneur to allow a company’s design unit to stay consistent with its philosophy behind its design thinking, regardless of a leadership change.

Lee joined Samsung in 2015. Previously, he advised design and branding strategies for companies in the field of aviation and construction, among others. Lee started to serve as the president of SADI in December 2018.

By Son Ji-hyoung (