South Korean tech giant Samsung is one of the biggest companies in the world. Unfortunately, it is also almost universally criticised for the design of its smartphones and tablets.
Fast Company, a tech news website, recently interviewed Kevin Lee, former head of Samsung's design department and product experience in America, who cited a combination of the 'Steve Jobs Syndrome' in Silicon Valley design studios and a hierarchical culture within Samsung as the main reason behind the lackluster design of Galaxy devices.
He claimed there was no dearth of money spent on good designers. Samsung would spend grandly on getting external design experts on-board, but the cultural differences between Samsung and the external parties would be the biggest problem, he noted.
The designers would come up with ideas so outlandish that would not fit into Samsung's portfolio or would not be technologically possible. Sometimes, Samsung's management would reject or discard the idea or water it down completely.
Lee claimed that there was no dearth of game-changing ideas, but often they were not implemented because of the differences between the design studios and the 'consensus-driven work environment' followed at Samsung. As Samsung makes everything from vacuum cleaners to smartphones, all having multiple SKUs, its product line often has carefully calculated prices at different ranges, taking into account all kinds of customers.
This also means that margins on Samsung's products are lower than Apple's products. This also probably gives Samsung a little less leeway with the design.
Designers often do not budge from their ideas and adopt a 'take it or leave it' approach with Samsung. Often they also come up with ideas which are not feasible, not taking into account the fact that Samsung is the company that creates the core technology.
Overall, the problem is a two-way street and something that many believe may not change overnight.
Such assessment does not bode well for the incoming Galaxy S6, which promises a radical revamp of Samsung's flagship phone. Over the course of 2014, we saw Samsung embrace metal in the construction for its phones, which was positive.
However, it has again adopted an approach where it uses a similar design language across low-end phones like the Galaxy A5 and A7, and higher-end offerings like the Galaxy Alpha and the Galaxy Note 4. This means the flagship product may not have the extra design oomph as the same design philosophy can be seen on cheaper phones.