Why does the Samsung Galaxy Note8 look the way it does? I recently paid a visit to Samsung’s Design Lab in Seoul, and spoke with Jiyoun Moon, Design Strategy, Jiyoung Lee, Product Designer, and Sae-Hee Lee, CMF (Color, Material and Finish) Designer, to find out.
The design process for the Note8 started 24 months prior to launch. The Seoul Design Lab worked with six Samsung global design institutes to find design trends around the world, and through its research, found that people were increasingly prioritizing four key things in products.
Moon described the four characteristics as ‘light and pure,’ or simpler, essential design, ‘blurred boundaries,’ or a unification of global values, ‘flexible identity,’ designs that are no longer specific to age or gender, and ‘to the essence,’ shifting from the glamorous and decorative to a core essence of something.
Based on these four key trends, Samsung’s design team decided on that the Galaxy Note8 would be based on the idea of ‘neutrality’ — something that “is designed to seamlessly integrate into our lives.”
The Note8’s design team then worked constantly with Samsung’s engineers to propose new designs and get feedback on what could and couldn’t be done, and based on that feedback, they made dozens of prototypes and revisions. Which might explain why certain concessions had to be made, like why the ports on the bottom of the Note8 aren’t aligned on a straight line.
“From the perspective of the designer, it’s our commitment to make it a straight line at the bottom,” Jiyoung Lee said. “But of course there’s the arrangement of all the hardware components, there’s the optimum size and location for each of the component, which we have to consider. So even in the future, I believe it may be difficult to create a perfectly straight line.”
When asked why the fingerprint sensor was located right next to the camera module, when it was prone to smudging, Jiyoung Lee initially emphasized that by placing all the elements, like the dual cameras, the flashlight and the sensor together, it would create a more unified look.
However, she also admitted, “There was a lot of consultation and discussions between the hardware engineers and our design team. And I have to admit we didn’t agree on everything, of course, but our role is to provide the optimum design and that’s the work we’ve done here.”
The Note8 comes in five colors (with some funky names), Midnight Black, Orchid Gray, Maple Gold, Deep Sea Blue and Star Pink. Looking out at this sea of colors, the first question is, where’s white?
Sae-Hee Lee revealed that white had been one of the team’s initial suggestions, but after a lot of tests, it turned out white wasn’t a right match with the display, glass and metal. Something else that stands out is that colors, like gold and blue, aren’t exactly the same shades as on the Galaxy S8.
“We do a lot of work to find the colors that are right for the material,“ Sae-Hee Lee explained. “In the Note series, the screen size is large, so we tried to match the colors with the material and shape of the Note series. As a result, we tend to select colors that have a lower saturation so that it feels more comfortable in everyday life.”
In closing, Jiyoung Lee summed up their design philosophy this way, “In the past we were more focused on tech. Now we are more focused on how the consumers will feel about this product and technology. We want consumers to feel the innovation and convenience when using these products. Also, considering that the Note has authentic colors and shapes, we try to create designs that will cause users to feel more attached the more they use the phones.”