Inside the Design: Colorful Smartphones?
Designers use colors to design. It is an obvious observation, but then who designs color? Designers! Color designer as a profession, is relatively unknown compare to fashion designers, because the concept of designing color is unfamiliar to many people. Recently, Samsung Tomorrow had a chance to sit down with the color designers and the color developer of Samsung Galaxy S4 LTE-A. Enjoy the colorful interview of people behind the colors of Galaxy S4 LTE-A!
Jihyun Koh,Designer– “If Galaxy S3 had a very earthy, nature friendly and organic emotion, we wanted LTE-A to project a combination of curiosity, imagination, dream and fantasy. This was our overall motivation. In terms of inspiration, inspiration can be found anywhere, from our imagination to scenes from everyday life, so we are continuously inspired. In cartoons, a single light bulb lights above a character’s head when he/she is inspired. For us it is more like multiple light bulbs lighting up, continuously. The challenging part is the expression of the inspiration. For example, one of the inspirations we had for the new color of LTE-A was “Stars in the Galaxy”. Stars are combination of curiosity, imagination, dream and fantasy; it was perfect.”
The Creation of the Colors
Jungah Kang, Designer-“We decided to start with red and blue, which hasn’t been done often for smartphones. Therefore, it was important for us that people relate to the color we were going to create, which means people needed to feel the texture of the color.
Generally speaking, saturation of the color was the key to that. For ‘Red Aura’, it was necessary to increase the saturation to project a vivid texture. However, if the saturation was too high, it looked bloody, which could be unappealing to many people.
Saturation was important for ‘Blue Arctic’ as well. People love the color blue and we are frequently exposed to it in our everyday life. However, because of its popularity, people can get bored of it quickly. Therefore, it was important to create a kind of blue that is fresh and new to people. We needed to bring a whole different kind of experience of blue, yet, not too stylish or overwhelming.”
Jiyhyun Koh, Designer– “We knew creating the color we had in mind wasn’t going to be easy, because it didn’t exist yet. To create it, we had to combine multiple layers of colors, pattern and materials. Pattern is important. Depending on the size and direction of the pattern, the color projects different emotions. We also tried adding different materials in the color, such as metal. The hint of metal in this color gives the color a shining effect, like a star. We couldn’t create the color we wanted by just mixing a couple of colors together. The combination of layers of colors, pattern, and material for the colors is more complex than it seems.”
Changyun Hwang, Developer: “My job is to bring the color that the design team created into reality. For this project we understood that we weren’t just making plain blue or plain red. The design team had presented me a beautiful, yet complex color. However, I needed to make sure that the color could actually be applied to the product material.
There are many aspects to consider in terms of its possibility. For example, Galaxy models are very popular worldwide and made in many different parts of the world, so it had to be possible to produce these colors universally. Also, we needed to make sure the outcome of the color has the same texture and emotion to what designers have initially given us.
Therefore, we did a lot of research on different fields like materials, production processes, and health and environmental issues. We went through countless tests and trial and errors. I believe that we created twice as many mock-ups as the previous ones. It is always a challenge to create something new, but that’s our job.”
Jiyhyun Koh, Designer– “He made it sound like we are the only source of ideas, but there are plenty of occasions where it works the other way around. The development team often pitches us an idea or an inspiration that is extremely valuable. So there are plenty of times when we work based on those ideas and inspiration. We inspire each other, mutually.”
Jungah Kang, Designer-“People might not notice, but color has a trend. So it is very important for us to recognize the trend and set the trend as well. Ultimately our goal is to create a fresh color that many people can enjoy and be satisfied with for a long time. Therefore, we researched everything from trending keywords to magazines, pretty much anything that could give us a clue about what people like.”
“We actually have a project called SMC, Samsung Mobile Color. During this annual project, we try to come up with new colors and new materials. This sort of project and research makes the quality of the outcome so much better, because the ideas we get from this project help a lot when we work on a new project.”
Changyun, Hwang, Developer– “To make the designers’ job easier, before any project starts, we continuously do research and test on new materials. So when the designers come up with a great color, our research can facilitate the whole process. It is important for us to be as prepared as possible, all the time. We need to know what is possible and impossible, so nobody wastes any time or effort from the very beginning. Because we understand that perfection doesn’t come easily; countless tests, discussions, re-touches, and editing are necessary. However, we can help to make it easier.
The Myth of Smartphone Colors, Black and White
Jungah Kang, Designer– “Before smartphones, the colors of phones, such as foldable phones, were very diverse. When smartphones were introduced to the world, initially, people were not really used to the concept of smartphones, because it was so new. I think, in the beginning of the smartphone era, people wanted to play it safe. They preferred to be conservative with the color, because color was the one thing that could be recognized immediately. People wanted a color that makes them feel safe and comfortable, and that was either black or white. However, I think now people are more open to the idea of trying different colors.
Jungah Kang, Designer-“Although it tends to be easier for the younger generation to accept something new, I think it was going to be very challenging for many people to be comfortable with a new color. However, people were ready and welcomed the idea of new colors for smartphones. In that perspective the reaction has been very positive.”
Jihyun Koh, Designer-“ “There was some pressure in delivering new colors, because people were so used to black or white. This new color we were creating had to be liked as much as and as long as black and white. Therefore, longevity of the colors was one of the issues. If the new colors don’t deliver the same sort of satisfaction as black or white, there was no point of creating something new. It is somewhat experimental, but we have done a lot of research and tests and are confident that the colors can deliver that.”
Jihyun Koh, Designer -“Color can be very personal and subjective, at least for me. So it is important to maintain my focus on consumers and the product or project.”
Changyun Hwang, Developer– “To express the color perfectly, we actually tried not only colors but also adding metals into the mix, as the designers said before. Therefore, discovering or creating that right material was a challenge, as well. There are many materials that don’t support the color, so there are lots of times we just create the material. Of course, when we create new materials or colors, we make sure to patent it. Standardizing these new colors for the market is a difficult process as well”
“Color is important, obviously; however it is very important that the color doesn’t overwhelm the product. It needs to harmonize with the product. The product can’t be about the color. It is important to find that perfect balance.”
Jungah Kang, Deisgner-“When it comes to color designing, there is a thin line between comfort and cliched, and fresh and overwhelming. We understand how colors are perceived. Our job is to balance and create a color that satisfies all the different emotional aspects of people.”
“Nowadays, we actually need to take “smartphone covers” into consideration. Because we understand they are useful for people and they like to use them, we also want to make sure the color of the phone can harmonize with whatever cover people choose to use. We are not sad or disappointed about it, of course. We want to be customer friendly, that’s our main goal.”
Jihyun Koh, Deisgner– “This might sound contradictory, but if we focus too much on the color in designing the color, sometimes we end up with a wrong color. Because there are colors that only looks good as the color itself. A same color can look totally different on materials. So we need to think of color designing in a much broader spectrum. When the color finally comes out as we wanted, that color feels like part of my family.
The Future of Color
Jihyun Koh, Deisgner– “If you look at people’s phone covers, you notice there are so many different styles; not just color-wise, but also shape and material-wise, as well. Sometimes the cover is so exaggerated that you don’t even recognize that it is a phone. Phone covers have become a form of self-expression. This tells us that people are open to new colors and shapes. It gives us an idea what people want. I hope that in the future we will be able to provide more options for people in terms of color.”
The Significance of the Color of Smartphones
Jungah Kang, Designer– “I believe the color of a smartphone is extremely important. I think people care about the color of the phone as much as they care about its function or specification. Because color is the first thing they can judge with confidence. It’s like a first impression; we actually believe that the color of the smartphone is the first impression. We take pride and responsibility of the influence of the color we design.
Changyun, Hwang, Developer-“There is a lot of space on a smartphone that is represented solely by color, such as the back panel. However, it is somewhat limited in terms of shape and opportunity to present a variety of colors. Therefore, that single color we create for the phone has a lot of significance. As was mentioned before, the color of a smartphone is the first impression of the smartphone. Creating a first impression with a single color is the beauty of color designing smartphones. ”
Jihyun Koh, Designer– “Color gets me excited. I wanted to share that excitement with people. To present that emotion in color, it needs to be approachable and easy on the eyes, not overwhelming. It is a challenge. However the process of creating the perfect color is a joy for me. The joy is the reason I got into color designing.”
Jungah Kang, Designer– “I like when the color harmonizes with the product. I enjoy the moment when you feel like there is no better color, besides the one you created, for the product. Sometimes I think I can relate to a chef. Chefs cook to make people happy and get enjoyment out of it. I simply like when people like the color I participated in creating. I enjoy seeing people’s reaction of joy. It is such a humbling experience”
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