The changing role of design in a new era of device connectivity

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Session name: The Changing Role of Design in a New Era of Device Connectivity
Chris Albrecht
Katie Fehrenbacker
Dennis Miloseski

Chris Albrecht 00:00
I changed my mind Kevin Fitchard is the king of mobilize. That guy is awesome. All right, up next we’re going to switch topics a little bit and move into some design talk. I want to remind you that we have a design conference coming up, a Roadmap Conference, November 5 & 6 at the Yerba Buena Center. We’re going to be talking about the changing role of design in the new era of device connectivity. That’s going to be a discussion between Katie Fehrenbacher and Dennis Miloseski, Head of Design Studio for Samsung Design America. Please welcome Katie and Dennis to the stage.

Katie Fehrenbacker 00:31
Again, I’m Katie Fehrenbacher, Senior Writer for GigaOm. I was here yesterday chatting with Bill Ruh from GE and Adidas and their smart watch. Today I’m really excited to speak with Dennis Miloseski and everyone’s heard of Samsung, almost everyone’s heard of Samsung, obviously. But, maybe not that many people have heard of Samsung Design America. So, tell the audience a little bit about that new office and what you guys are doing.
Dennis Miloseski 00:58
Sure. So, nice to meet everybody and thanks for having me here, Katie. Samsung Design America is actually a really interesting investment for the company in silicon valley and we’re about a year old. Some of the philosophy was that if we were able to bring the right people to the right place, could we help a company like Samsung innovate in new ways moving forward. So, our studio is about a year old and while we’ve grown quite a bit since we started, we staff multiple disciplines across experience design, UI design all the way to industrial design and into engineering. And, really the goal was to bring these disciplines together to work in new ways for Samsung. We actually approach problems very differently and very much in a valley minded approach. It’s a maker culture, iterate and build fast. We’re situated in San Francisco because there is so much happening in this space whether it’s entrepreneurship and the type of start ups that are coming here to the companies that are already here doing very interesting things. It gives us a chance to work in completely new ways where we can co-create with companies that are in the valley and actually do something very special for Samsung.
Katie Fehrenbacker 02:18
So, how do you work with Samsung Corporate office? What’s the process and the strategy?
Dennis Miloseski 02:25
We’re situated in a really great spot because we can look across multiple business for Samsung. We focus on a variety of different areas; we look at the mobile industry but we also look at the living room, some things in spaces of robotics, in the internet of things as well as appliances. From a strategy perspective, we actually have an opportunity to look across each of these businesses which have been run really in their own spaces in the past. So, it’s an opportunity for Samsung to do something interesting. When we look at philosophies around building a unified vision across many different products in the company, it gives us a chance to actually introduce new types of platforms, new types of ways for devices to communicate with each other and start to bring in this vision of more of a unified Samsung.
Katie Fehrenbacker 03:19
I know it’s a new project but do you have examples or anecdotes you can tell us about influencing product design or experience design or anything like that? Particularly coming out next year I think you were saying.
Dennis Miloseski 03:32
Definitely. So, since we’re very new, we’ve actually been very busy. Most of our work is on track for next year. We have quite a few products in the 2014 space but what we’re looking at are the big questions. We are not asking what is the next phone or what is the next device but questioning what is the future of mobile. We get a chance to take a step back and look at behavior and how people are starting to interface with their mobile devices and it gives us a chance to bring a deeper philosophy towards where and how the company should invest. So, for instance, in the specific case of mobile, we started investigating the wearable space quite some time ago and we started to look into and push thinking in the areas of, Well, what is our mobile future? Should we interface with icon grids for the next five to ten years? And, we started to come to some conclusions that enabled us to build a story and a philosophy around how technology constructive form and experience around you verses you having side load experiences with products. Samsung is one of the few companies in the world that has that reach across many of the devices in your life. This investment was an area where we can start to look at how do we turn Samsung from more of a technology brand into a lifestyle brand when technology starts to recede and your life starts to come forward. We get a little deeper in how we start to engage with technology, what does it actually mean to interface with these devices of the future.
Katie Fehrenbacker 05:14
So, if some more wearable’s come out from Samsung next year, should we assume that Samsung Design America had a heavy hand in this?
Dennis Miloseski 05:22
We have a heavy design in that specific space in the interests that we have in wearable’s. I think wearable is a new frontier for a lot of technology companies and I almost compare it to the transition into mobile. So, when the mobile business started, we were starting to use a lot of components and display technologies which were in the PC business. We had to start developing new approaches towards that new technology. And, wearable’s we have this new frontier where these new devices are going to have to be thought through in ways where they actually change the way we live our life. New technology is starting to be developed focused around how that technology makes sense; focusing around the here and now and making you feel connected to the people that you care about and the environment that you’re in. It’s not necessarily about taking your phone and putting more glass in plastic between you and the people that you’re with but how technology becomes more assisted in the way you live your life.
Katie Fehrenbacker 06:31
And, you’re saying Samsung is looking at being more of lifestyle brand as technology recedes into the background. How does that change the way that you design products? Experience design is coming to forefront does that mean more services and less focus on the hardware? What does that mean?
Dennis Miloseski 06:49
Right. So, that’s actually great that we are valley built and valley minded; that is we really care about how hardware, software and services come together. We’re staffed with some of the greatest thinkers in the Bay Area around building services platforms and what does it mean across devices. I hinted at looking at how technology can start to build an experience around you verses the other way around and that is heavily dependent on service strategy and thinking. It’s also involved in areas of how you start to work with partners in new ways. So, Samsung works with a variety of different service providers and content providers and what we want to enable is a way for their services to reach all of us in different parts of our life. It isn’t necessarily about installing Apps on everything that you own that is a Samsung device but a service partner should have the broad reach across all of our devices in an ecosystem. To answer your question, it does involve thinking about new platforms and how we reach out to our devices.
Katie Fehrenbacker 07:51
And, you’re telling me the studio does a lot of design thinking type practices, so, business strategy as well almost like one of these design shops like an IDO or a Frog design or something like that. That’s what you guys do right? Do you see that as becoming a trend across the tech landscape?
Dennis Miloseski 08:12
I think so. We’re seeing a lot of tech companies snatching up design agencies, us specifically. Our customer within Samsung are the CEO’s of the company. With that audience you have to be very versed and business strategy and understanding the markets in the spaces that we enter in. Design really has changed from being more of an aesthetical approach and the way something works and looks and feels to actually being an underlying part of our businesses. That’s a big thing and just understanding what is the business opportunity and the market strategy in addition to coming up with design solutions. That’s how we’ve been able to be effective within Samsung as well. We’re a new studio but in that year we’ve been able to actually get through to a lot of strategic thinking across flagship products that are to come.
Katie Fehrenbacker 09:11
What are your strategies for designing global international products given variety of markets, variety of languages? How do you guys do that?
Dennis Miloseski 09:21
Sure. So, we do it with a lot of really deep user research and ethnic graphic analysis of what needs are in these different markets. One story that I like to tell is how we came about with our very popular Note devices now. The Note which in the U.S. market seems like a larger screen phone, which is great for entertainment, media and web browsing, actually was birthed of out of specific needs from other markets. What we were finding was that Asian speaking cultures found it much easier to actually write the glyphs or the characters of their language. It was addressing a specific need around inputting text which we do on a daily basis. It enable us to actually carve out a new type of experience for a very large market which was our Asian market. Outside of that birth, many new benefits globally and across the world. With the increase of the screen size it actually turned a phone into more of a productivity device. What we’re finding now with recognition technology getting a lot better that more note taking and more note sharing is happening with users of the Note device. In addition to that, more creativity is happening because they’re interfacing with these devices in new ways.
Katie Fehrenbacker 10:41
Do you have a central Samsung design philosophy? You design across so many verticals like TV, mobile, connected devices, wearable’s, is there central themes that the company sticks to?
Dennis Miloseski 10:57
Sure, one of the biggest things and the backbone to what we’re doing is around making it meaningful. It’s a design need where it is less about focusing on specific features and it’s more about how certain things enrich the way we live our lives. Make it meaningful happens in many ways and the story that I gave about the Note, How do you actually make somebody’s life better? These devices become a part of us and we talked about Samsung now moving into being more of a lifestyle brand. A lifestyle product is one that is a part of you; it’s a part of your identity, it’s who you are, it’s when you reach in your pocket and that device isn’t there that you feel that you’re not whole. Because it enables you to communicate with your world, the ones that you love and it makes you feel connected to the things that are important to you. Now, we use our mobile devices as ways to stay connected and also to capture moments and be creative but we are also looking into these other spaces and how these devices and how these products actually enrich how you live your life.
Katie Fehrenbacker 12:06
I’m going to open it up for questions. If anyone has any major questions for Samsung’s design philosophy and studio but I do have another question for you right now. What are your design inspirations? Who out there do you think is doing it really well? Within the tech industry or even without? Who are your design inspirations?
Dennis Miloseski 12:28
It’s funny, I think most of my design inspiration comes from what could be and how we could start living our lives better. It’s funny but it’s a term that I use and we’re in the business to turn science fiction into science fact and I like to use that because I think we all envision this future and part of this future is science fiction and the writers of the past. They are envisioning ways that we could communicate to make life better and magically things happen [chuckle]. Right? We have these incredible devices that enable us to stay connected to others who are very far away or for ways to create. I think a lot of our inspiration comes from that. Samsung is uniquely positioned to enable that as well and to make that happen just because we are the display company, we are the component business, we are the first touch experience which matters. I think we have the most views out of any service you can think of. How many times do we take our phone out of our pocket, unlock it and check something. That is an impression and on average it’s hundreds and hundreds of times a day that we have that impression with a specific device. In having that experience being that first touch experience is a very special position to be in.
Katie Fehrenbacker 13:52
Does Samsung use that type to data to inform designs through capturing analytic’s through use?
Dennis Miloseski 14:01
I think what when we start talking about these future platforms and future service platforms, I think it’s an interesting way for new type of service partners and content providers to make sense of that access and that ability. For instance, once our devices become contextual and they understand where we are and what services that we need, it enables the favorite services that we use to bring joy and delight to our users. As far as analytics go, it’s an area that is along side with that platform. It’s an investment that we’re making as a company.
Katie Fehrenbacker 14:39
You said that Samsung is looking for partnerships or that’s one reason why the design shop is here, how do entrepreneurs and start ups and budding founders connect with you or work with Samsung?
Dennis Miloseski 14:54
Definitely reach out through our media and PR. There are quite of few ways to start working with Samsung. I think a lot of the interesting companies that are doing work in spaces that align with the mobile industry we’re meeting with very frequently, so, a lot of the start ups that are here. Some of the things that I mentioned before the value that we bring is that we can co-develop and actually really think through user scenarios and how we bring value to our users. And, that sometimes involves working with a company that is doing something exceptional in a specific space and using Samsung is one of the delivery mechanisms to actually have an outreach to the hundreds of millions of users that we have across all of the devices that we sell.
Katie Fehrenbacker 15:42
Do you think Samsung’s type of design shop could be in Korea? There’s a reason it’s in Silicon Valley.
Dennis Miloseski 15:48
Yes, and I think culturally the way that we work, the maker mentality and the maker culture is very important for Samsung and it’s being embraced by the company. The valley minded approach and the access to those companies that I mentioned as well as our approach and our design process. Really understanding user experience, really understanding what matters to users and not just shipping products for the products sake. That investment was made here to actually work really closely with Korea and we do. The design organization in Korea works very closely with us. We are influencing what is happening in Korea as well.
Katie Fehrenbacker 16:32
One final plug, I put together an experience design conference called Road Map for GigaOM and that’s in a couple weeks. So, if you want to learn more about experience design, come check it out. Thanks so much, Dennis.
Dennis Miloseski 16:44
Great. Thank you.

Chris Albrecht 16:51
I take it all back again, Katie’s the queen of Mobilize.