The role of industrial design in international competition : A case study of the South Korean electronics industry
In terms of international competition, the most significant feature
of the last thirty years has been the increasing success of first
Japan and then other Eastern countries in penetrating the markets of
the traditional centres of technological expertise in Europe and
North America. The role of design in this success has tended to be
neglected in academic studies.
The present study concentrates on six firms and four products in the
S. Korean electronics industry between 1981 and 1985, a period in
which output increased by an average of 20% per year. An attitude
survey of company managers and designers views on the role of design
was conducted. Finally, an attempt was made to assess the quality of
Korean imports to the UK though examination of Consumer Research
Seven factors are identified as contributing to the success of the S.
Korean electronics industry:
1) The role of government in indigenous technological development
2) Adaptation of imported technology rather than adoption
3) Top management involvement
4) The potential of cheap labour
5) Learn lessons from foreign competitors
6) Reduced reliance on Japan and other donors
7) Own products in export
For the four products, a high degree of Korean independence in design
is identified. This is particularly so for styling and chassis
design but less so for the design of component parts.
The attitude survey found that there is a tendency for both designers
and non-designers in the firms to be in agreement regarding the
importance of industrial design, advanced technology and the
integration of marketing and design policy with all activities. An
overall picture emerges of an industry that claims to support the
importance of design but draws some of its ideas from overseas.
However, some misunderstanding of the role of design was detected.
The thesis concludes that the diverse nature of present and possible
future problems requires a synthetic approach involving three
parties. namely the government, industry and education, and design
education will need to be improved before this can happen