Dong-Hoon Chang
Dong-Hoon Chang
Dong-Hoon Chang

Samsung’s chief of mobile design resigned, reports Reuters, amidst criticism of the Galaxy S5’s appearance.

Dong-hoon Chang was an Executive Vice President at Samsung and his main responsibility was setting the design strategy for the Korean giant’s products. Educated in Korea and at the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chang was a professor before working for Samsung. Under his supervision, Samsung put up hugely successful devices such as the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Note 2, which helped cement its status as the world’s leading smartphone maker.

But Samsung also received a lot of flak over the design of its flagship products, which many find tasteless.

Chang resigned last week and the VP of mobile design Min-hyouk Lee will take over his responsibilities. Samsung confirmed the shuffle, but declined to comment on the reasons that pushed Chang to resign. The executive will stay with Samsung and continue to lead the company’s overall design strategy, but Lee will apparently take over more executive duties in mobile design.

samsung galaxy s5 aa (11 of 36)

More responsibilities for Midas

Like Chang, Min-hyouk Lee has been instrumental in shaping Samsung’s design vision over the past years. Nicknamed “Midas” for his ability to deliver gold designs, the 42-year Lee has led the actual design of the Galaxy S line. A professed fan of Apple’s Jony Ive, Lee took offense, however, when critics accused him of aping Apple’s design for the Galaxy S.

I'm confident that one day Samsung will make a product that defines our time, and I hope it's one of mine

“I’m confident that one day Samsung will make a product that defines our time, and I hope it’s one of mine,” said Lee in a February 2012 interview, but so far, that iconic design has not graced Samsung’s products. Many critics and customers panned the Galaxy S5 for its cheap, lackluster vibe. The phone’s dimpled back plate in particular inspired comparisons with a glitter-covered Band-Aid on social networks and in reviews. But it’s not just the back, as even fans will admit that the Galaxy S line needs a general facelift.

Now that Lee is Samsung’s top design authority, his biggest challenge will be changing the perception that Samsung lacks taste and doesn’t care about fine design in its products. With strong competition from the likes of Apple, HTC, and Sony, Lee has his work cut out for him. Adopting materials that are more luxurious could help, and Samsung is said to be preparing a premium version of the Galaxy S5 that would launch in June. But that will likely be just a limited version, and Lee will have to figure a way to enhance the design of Samsung’s mass-market products as well.