Samsung taps new design chief

Can a new head of design pull the tech giant out of its recent profit plunge?


Samsung has hired Lee Don-tae to act as the new leader of its global design team.

The South Korean electronics giant selected Lee Don-tae to run the design unit, who has been working with the team since January. Formerly, Lee was co-CEO of Tangerine, a top London-based design studio which worked with Jony Ive in 1990.

Apple used to be a consultancy client of Tangerine, and Ive worked on the iPad and iPhone maker's original Powerbook laptop before being lured enticed to the Apple fold.

Ive now works as Apple's top head of design, and is most well-known for designing Apple's iconic, minimalist products. Lee, however, will be acting as senior vice president of Samsung's global design team. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, this will give Lee carte blanche across Samsung's global design centers.

A Samsung official told the Korea Herald that Lee "will work to elevate Samsung's design prowess overall rather than focusing on a specific product."

The 47-year-old has worked with companies including LG, Virgin Australia, British Airways and Nikon while at Tangerine. According to the design firm, Lee also acted as a part-time as a "Design Master" for Samsung's C&T construction unit, developing interiors under the South Korean "Raemian" brand.

The design expert will join Chang Dong-hoon, who once acted as Samsung's mobile design chief and now is firmly placed in the Design Strategy sector. In May last year, Chang offered his resignation due to poor sales of the Galaxy S5 smartphone. The former design vice president, Lee Min-hyouk, took over the mobile design unit.

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Samsung has continued to suffer dwindling profit as the smartphone and tablet industry becomes increasingly congested. As mobile devices have all reached a general level of sophistication, it is becoming harder for tech firms to differentiate their products. Therefore, design is becoming even more important.

Earlier this month, Samsung predicted it would suffer a drop in profit across 2014 due to poor smartphone sales. In its preliminary earnings guidance report for Q4 2014, the firm said operating profit will be approximately 5.2 trillion won ($4.7 billion). In Q2 2014, Samsung revealed an overall drop in operating profit of 15 percent.

Read on: In the enterprise