What makes a design good? It is easy to think that such a question of design philosophy has no relevance to practical devices like the multifunction printer sitting in the corner of the office. To the extent we think about it at all, we’re more likely to vote for function over form.
The design team at Samsung Electronics Printing Solutions Business, however, has a different view. When they came together in early 2010 to give Samsung’s printers a new design identity, they began by asking themselves this very question. In fact, they knew it was THE overarching question and that the answer would impact long term brand identity. This was the genesis behind the Samsung printer design that would go on to win an iF Gold Award for innovative design.
Here’s the story behind the design innovation project by Samsung Printing Solutions, and its effort to elevate aesthetics and user experience to the same level as functionality.
Giving it Identity
One of the primary goals was to come up with an Integrated Design Identity that personified the Samsung identity and to make Samsung printers recognizable from meters away.
“A good design should have an identity. It should embody continuity and encompass the past as well as the future,” said Head Designer Seungwook Jeong. The continuity, he added, should be harmonized with a “killer” differentiating point.
Creating balance between continuity and difference was especially important for printers because the product cycle is so long. The team wanted to build a unified look and feel that can change gradually over time.
“Ultimately, the design is fine-tuned to enhance user experience, which in turn defines the design identity of our printers,” explained Mr. Jeong, pointing out that the identity should also encompass the value of the meaningful innovation inside.
Giving it Simplicity
The design team also agreed that good design should closely follow Samsung’s design philosophy, “simple is beautiful, simple is everywhere,” using simple colors and outlines that pursue timeless sophistication.
They started by asking the question: if a printer is stripped to its basic functions, what would it look like? The answer they found was that only the interface and paper storage would remain. From this standpoint, they decided to split the interface and box, and use differentiated forms and colors for each.
For the top part, which is where users interact with the printer the most, they settled on an organic design with soft, flowing lines. And based on ergonomics research, they set the control panel and stacker at gentle angles of 15 and 7 degrees, respectively. The bottom, which houses the engine and paper, was given a clean yet sophisticated finish.
Giving it Intuitiveness and Universality
Good design should also make a printer easier to use, in terms of both functionality and ergonomics. On the former, the ideal is to make it so intuitive that we can do away with user manuals entirely.
On the latter, the printer should be easy to access for everyone in the office, whether they are tall or short or even facing a physical disability. The goal is a universal level of convenience no matter who is using it or where the printer is located. Based on the latest in office ergonomics research, the control panel was placed at a height of 1.1m and the buttons were carefully laid out according to their frequency of use. The design team even color coded the buttons and enhanced their readability of their text descriptions.
Giving it Durability
The design has to also ensure durability, and the solution was to utilize a thick exterior not normally seen on OA devices. The development team initially pushed back on the proposed design but eventually found a way to build it. They even gave careful consideration to the gaps between various components to make sure the unit has a tight fit and a soft, luxurious finish.
Samsung believes a printer should be something more than just that big thing in the corner. “In the end, we want satisfied users. That is the very essence and purpose of our design process,” said Mr. Jeong. The result is not just an iF Design award. It’s a carefully designed product built for real people, one that remains faithful to its design principles and offers users the high level of enhanced experience they have come to expect from the Samsung brand.