is one of the world's top producers of cutting edge electronics. The company's understated wordmark appears on millions of products and is recognized worldwide. And yet, given that the establishment was founded nearly a century ago, it becomes obvious this hasn't always been their business model. As such their branding has morphed over the years to cover the wide array of products that they would market - an ever-changing face of success which would eventually propel them to compete with tech juggernauts like Apple and Microsoft.
1938: Humble Beginnings
Despite their current high profile, Samsung came from humble roots. The company was founded as Samsung Sanghoe
by Byung-Chull Lee, in the city of Taegu in Korea. The name itself translates to "Three Stars", a concept which is taken from the divine lore of Sanxing, the three gods of fortune - Prosperity (Fu), Status (Lu), and Longevity (Shou).
This was a fairly ambitious assertion considering Lee started the business with 30,000 won, which is roughly equivalent to $25 today. The company would experience immediate and rapid growth, exporting dried local vegetables, fruit and fish to Manchuria and Beijing. The operation was so small they did not even have a logo for many years, all the way up until 1958, and the logo they did design bears no resemblance to the one we are accustomed to.
Looking at this first iteration it's difficult to imagine the connection to its current form. There is no wordmark to be seen, only a circle enclosing the mythical three stars superimposed over three stripes and a couple of stylized wheat plants, representing the companies agricultural roots. Regardless of how different it was, the brand simply worked and Lee's vision would take him places even he could not foresee.
The 1960s: The Future of Electronics
The business would profit immensely over the coming decades, spurning Lee to create subsidiaries and expand to new markets. What was once a simple export business was now beginning to flourish into a manufacturing network which would offer an increasing variety of products services. In 1951, Lee founded Samsung Moolsan
(now Samsung Corporation) More subsidiaries would follow, including Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance
, Samsung Life Insurance
and Samsung Everland
. But it was in 1969 that the company would branch out into the global phenomenon we know today in the form of Samsung-Sanyo Electronics
. Their first product was a black and white television, and to reflect this new direction the logo was revisited for the first time in over 30 years.
Here we see the 3 star motif taking more of a backseat as the wordmark is pushed to the forefront. That name has been assigned to so many successful subsidiaires that its prominance in the design was the most pragmatic choice the designers could make. The incorporation of the slightly rectangular box is no accident either. The company's intent to dominate the television market was etched right into it's corporate identity.
The 1970s: Age of Rapid Expansion
In the span of a decade Samsung Electronics
would produce millions of television sets. Their assembly lines were among the most efficient in the world, cutting production costs without sacrificng quality, which guaranteed them growing popularity in a market that grew more competitive by the minute.
In the coming years they would expand their production lines to include refrigerators, washing machines and other household appliances. This decade would also mark the beginning of the company's export of electronics to other countries, setting the stage for them to ride the computing and mobile waves which would provide a wealth of opportunities to anyone with the vision to seize them.
The 1980s: Computers and Telecommunications
With Microsoft and Apple racing for market dominance, Samsung decided to leverage their production powerhouse to produce their first personal computers. The move would spawn yet more subsidiaries, including Samsung BP Chemicals
, Samsung Semiconductor & Telecommunications
, Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology
, and Samsung Data Systems
. In 1985, Samsung took its first swing at telephony with the SC-1000, a mobile unit which was engineered for in-car use only. Quality and coverage was spotty in those days, but the fact that a mobile phone worked at all felt like a miracle at the time. It would mark the beginning of a new chapter in Samsung history. Given all this radical change in the market, it was time to update the logo once again.
In this iteration, the designers have explored further simplicity, removing the outside circle which had long been a visual staple of the brand and substituting it for the three stars which are composed of minimal diamond shapes placed at the appropriate angles. With the sharp lines and clever use of negative space, we can see the company's transition towards a more tech-oriented identity. The wordmark also provides a bit of the visual DNA for the font that is currently used.
The 1993: The Frankfurt Declaration
From the 80s to the early 90s, Samsung continued to produce record numbers of electronics. But by this point they were not alone. WIth juggernauts like Sony and Panasonic competing for the same market, sales soon began to lag. In order to investgate this phenomenon, chairman Kun-hee traveled the world to review the company's standing. He discovered that most of their products, particularly televisions were not performing as well as their competitors. This upset him greatly, prompting him to invite 200 company executives to Frankfurt where he would deliver a stirring, 3-day speech outlining his vision for the company's future direction and everything they would need to do in order to make it happen. By far this would mark the greatest shift in company policies and work ethic. He woud prove instrumental in managing the company's quality control, and was famous for making factory workers wear headbands that said "Quality First". His approach would also inspire the logo that currently adorns all their products.
This is the brand we currently know so well - and it marks the most drastic and ambitious visual departure earlier iterations. Gone are the three stars that once defined the company. The wordmark has taken center stage in a custom typeface which appears to be the offspring of the previous two logos. It is punched out of a dark blue ellipse tilted at a 10-degree angle, a graphic representation of the universe and symbol of the company's ever-growing ambition and success. After the launch of this logo, Samsung would continue to innovate and perfect it's production capabilities for micro electronics. The enterprise would take the mobile computing world by storm at the turn of the millennium with its Android-ready smart phones, high quality digital displays and domestic appliances.
Today one can only marvel at how far this company as come. You have to wonder if the final outcome would have surprised a visionary like Byung-Chull Lee. Who could have known that a humble merchant shipping fish and noodles to 3 locations would eventually spearhead a global empire of household electronics and wearable computers? Samsung isn't just a rags to riches story, its lifespan illustrates the rapid pace of innovation we've experienced in the last century. And while there may be more logo upgrades in the future, we think this company has found its niche and this particular incarnation will endure for years to come.