How Samsung Became a Design Powerhouse

Until 20 years ago, South Korea’s Samsung Electronics manufactured inexpensive, imitative electronics for other companies. Its leaders valued speed, scale, and reliability above all. Its marketers set prices and introduced features according to what original-equipment manufacturers wanted. Its engineers built products to meet prescribed price and performance requirements. At the end of the process designers would “skin” the product—make it look nice. The few designers working for the company were dispersed in engineering and new-product units, and individual designers followed the methods they preferred. In a company that emphasized efficiency and engineering rigor, the designers had little status or influence.

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