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Samsung’s mobile design chief profiled, doesn’t shy from Apple aspirations but offended by accusations of copying

MiYoung Kim of Reuters wrote a great profile of Samsung’s head mobile designer Lee Min-hyouk, a 40-year-old senior vice president. Some notables:

  • [Samsung’s] strategy has always been to be the “fast executioner”, the first in the market with a copycat product when a new opportunity is presented. But it is not known as a great innovator or a company like Apple that can literally create a new market with an iconic product.
  • Lee, who has acquired the moniker of “Midas” for his golden touch with the Galaxy series, has travelled to Brazil’s Iguazu Falls and the ancient city of Cuzco in Peru for inspiration. Samsung sends the design team on such trips across the world to stoke their imaginary fires. Images or emotions they pick up on these trips can be “naturally expressed in design languages or lines and colors”, said Lee, who started out designing cars for Samsung’s failed auto joint venture with Renault in the 1990s.
  • “I might not be at (Ive’s) level yet, but I believe Samsung will produce such iconic products one day. It’s not just effort that makes it possible for a new product to be a massive hit. It also has to be timely, and technology should be ready to make a certain design a reality.”

Still, Lee takes offense to the charges that the Galaxy line is an Apple copy, claiming: “I’ve made thousands of sketches and hundreds of prototype products (for the Galaxy). Does that mean I was putting on a mock show for so long, pretending to be designing?”

“As a designer, there’s an issue of dignity. (The Galaxy) is original from the beginning, and I’m the one who made it. It’s a totally different product with a different design language and different technology infused,” Lee contended.

(image above) Galaxy Note compared to iPhone

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