Samsung has crappy design — so why is it always an exemplar?

I’m reading Do You Matter? How Great Design Will Make People Love Your Company. In theme and topic, it’s *very* similar to Subject to Change, which mostly makes me grateful that we published first. We also don’t reference Apple *nearly* as much as this book does, though I guess it may be excusable, because one of its authors, Rob Brunner, worked there (though, he worked there when Jobs wasn’t there, so take that as you will).

Anyway, I’m compelled to blog because when talking about “design driven” corporations, the book cites, among others, Samsung. Now, I know that Samsung has been lauded in the design process (though not for a few years) because of how they used design to elevate their brand from an east-Asian also-ran into the next Sony. BUT, from what I can tell, Samsung’s “design-driven”-ness is all sizzle and no steak. I’ve owned two Samsung products in the time since they supposedly got design religion, and one sucked (a mobile phone) and one is mediocre (my DVD player). Am I missing something here? Are there Samsung products that are truly useful, usable, and desirable? If so, please point me to them… OR STOP USING THEM AS AN EXAMPLE.

11 thoughts on “Samsung has crappy design — so why is it always an exemplar?

  1. Have to agree with you re Samsung and design! Also not sure if good design without good quality control is worth having. I now refuse to buy anything manufactured by Samsung as every time I get one of their products it breaks, fails & is generally crap from a usability perspective.

  2. I don’t agree that Samsung has the design religion at all. As far as I can tell, Samsung don’t have a single design team covering all product lines, or even much collaboration between design teams. Apple famously have the one small team, and I would hazard a guess that Sony’s teams at least share notes, as elements like interface controls crop up on TVs and MP3 players alike. If you were to remove the branding, you’d be hard pressed to pair up any two Samsung products from different families as having been produced by the same firm.

    They did get one thing right once – the 171P LCD monitor. But they outsourced that to FA Porsche.

  3. This is perhaps a minor example, but I have a Samsung microwave, and it has the best microwave UI I’ve ever used. Appears inexpensive to build (but not “cheap”) and is really nice to use.

  4. I own a Samsung TV and i think that they make some of the best TV’s available. The design is spectacular and the ease of use trumps all other brands that i’ve tried.

    I do however agree with you on their mobile phones, they have one of the worst (if not the worst) OS’s that i’ve ever seen!

  5. I can imagine your dissatisfaction with Samsung as far as the interface or interaction design goes. This is partly influenced by taste and cultured, but that doesn’t mean you’re not right (the user is always right). But the reason why Samsung is often shown as an exemplar has very much to do with the quality of their hardware, their quality control, the speed of innovation etc. You could call them craptacular.

  6. We own a Samsung TV, and from a product design point of view it is much better than competing products from Sony, Philips, Panasonic, etc. The form factor is elegant, the back is as nice to look at as the front, the cable connections are well organised, the materials are high quality, its controls are restrained (mainly positioned at the side), and it comes in white (rather than just clichéd silver and black). However, the on screen menus/user interface are poor. But in my experience with consumer electronics this is usually the case, I guess because they are not considered a design element, or the design is constrained by decisions made years earlier when the electronics were designed.

  7. As mobile phones go – the one time I was given a Samsung phone, which was one of their most popular models, the interface made me feel practically handicapped.

  8. I bought a 40″ Samsung LCD tv just over 12 months ago, it broke down only the power supply but after 12 months. I spoke to Samsung customer care who washed their hands of the problem, I haveto pay £222.66 to have the part replaced. Never will I buy Samsung again

  9. I purchased a 42″ samsung tft-lcd tv less than a year ago and withing the past 3 months I am watching tv and it automatically shuts off, few seconds later, comes back on by itself, but with no sound or picture……it just keeps going on and off like it is trying to cycle but never comes on again…..any ideas of what the problem could be? I did this last month so I unplugged it and waited awhile, when I plugged it back it and pushed the power button, it came back on like normal…..but now it wont do nothing but on and off on and off ………..

  10. I have the same problem as Anflea 12/03/09……..

    Bought a ‘stunning’ looking 40 inch tv only a couple of years ago for an astronomical price (before they all came down!!!!!!!!!!!)

    TV turns on fine, then starts to go snowy and then nothing, off, on, off, on, off, on………then I throw the remote and stomp off and watch the 14inch portable with 5 channels.

    Stunning.

    Never buy Samsung, spoke to their customer care line and although I am a customer they didnt seem to care.

  11. I bought a samsung 40inch 1080p just over a year ago, and its broken already. Called samsung who didnt want to know. I wouldnt recomend samsung to anyone…