In today’s capitalist society, brand names, logos, and jingles can become cultural touchstones. So, by examining a major brand one can view society in cross-section.
One such brand is the electronics giant Samsun. Which rose from humble beginnings in the 1930s. To become today one of the world’s largest makers of consumer electronics.
The story of the brand can be told through the prism of the famous and now ubiquitous Samsung logo. Which has undergone changes over time. That reflect alterations both on the broader consumer landscape. Also, within the company itself.
About the Samsung Brand
Originally formed in 1938. As a trading company that dealt in dried fish, noodles, and local produce. Samsung (which means “three stars” or “tri-star” in Korean). diversified into a range of industries. Like food processing, textiles, and retail.
Also delving into financial matters such as insurance and securities. It would not be until the late 1960s. That Samsung would enter the consumer electronics sphere. For which it is most well-known today.
During this transition into consumer electronics. Samsung created several new divisions to focus on the burgeoning new industry. Including Samsung Electronic Devices, Samsung Electro-Mechanics, Samsung Corning, and Samsung Semiconductor & Telecommunications.
The first product to be delivered under this new direction was a Samsung black-and-white television set. A precursor of things to come.
Another fateful corporate decision took place in 1980. When Samsung entered the telecommunications hardware industry. With its buy of a South Korean company that manufactured switchboards. Soon, Samsung had revamped the newly acquired facilities to build equipment for telephone and fax systems. Which, decades later. Ultimately would culminate in Samsung’s successful line of mobile phones.
A Global Player
During the 1990s. Samsung first began to emerge as the dominant global player it remains today. By 1992, Samsung had become the world’s number one producer of memory chips. Which were found in an ever-growing array of devices. Making it the number two producer of chips generally. Samsung introduced its first Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) screens in 1995.
By a decade later, it was one of the world’s largest makers of LCD displays. At one point, Samsung entered into a joint agreement with Sony. To produce ample LCD displays to fulfill the needs of both companies. But Samsung later bought out Sony’s stake in the venture.
Since around 2000. Samsung has been embroiled in many intellectual property lawsuits around the globe. Particularly cases brought by and against Apple. With both sides alleging the theft of intellectual property in their competitor’s smart-phone devices.
Regardless, by the beginning of 2012. Samsung had overtaken Nokia as the largest mobile-phone manufacturer by sales. A crown Nokia had held since 1998.
From 2017 revenues, Samsung Electronics, the face of Samsung most visible to consumers. Presently claims the titles of world’s largest information technology company. Also, world’s largest chipmaker, and world’s largest consumer electronics maker.
What many consumers may not know. But, is that beginning in the mid-1970s. One of the most significant factors driving Samsung’s growth was its shipbuilding division.
Today, Samsung Heavy Industries is one of the world’s largest shipbuilders. And the number two shipbuilder by revenue as recently as 2010. Samsung boasts not one but two construction companies. Samsung Engineering, and Samsung C&T.
Both of which rank among the world’s 20 largest. Besides, Samsung Life Insurance is the world’s 14th largest life-insurance company. Also, Samsung Everland operates the oldest amusement park in South Korea and Cheil Worldwide.
Samsung company, is the world’s 15th largest advertising company, per 2012 revenues.This combination of assets makes Samsung one of the largest companies in the world. Ranking 6th overall in global brand value as of 2017.
In all, the Samsung of today comprises over 80 companies in industries. As diverse as consumer electronics, and life insurance. Also, construction, financial services, medical services, and shipbuilding. Generating hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue annually.
While the company is a far cry from its humble beginnings. Its founder’s vision of a highly diversified company. With its fingers in some disparate economic pies remains true to this day.
Samsung Logo Design History and History
Firstly, while many American consumers only have become familiar with the Samsung name. And so the Samsung logo over the past few decades. The company’s roots date back to 1938.
Now, the operation was so small, localized, and trade-centric. That the company did not even consider the need for a logo. By 20 years later. Yet, the company had expanded to such an extent that management recognized. The need for a unique and identifying Samsung logo.
The 1958 Samsung Logo
Having undergone significant growth in its first two decades of existence. Samsung became aware of the need for a unique identifier. That consumers would associate with their ever-expanding brand.
This first Samsung logo bears little resemblance to the Samsung logo and word mark we now know today. In recognition of the literal meaning of the company’s name (In Korean, Samsung means “three stars”).
The original Samsung logo features three stars, three stripes. And, in a nod to the company’s origins in the agricultural sector. A grouping of wheat plants.
The 1960s Samsung Logo
As the company delved further into the consumer electronics marketplace in the 1960s. With its first black-and-white televisions. Samsung again recognized the need to revise its logo. While it retained the traditional three-star graphical design.
The revised Samsung logo introduced a wordmark beside the reduced-size tri-star emblem. Which had also been decluttered. Furthermore, the simple three stars within a circle appeared.
Somewhat reminiscent of the logo of the Pittsburgh Steelers National Football League team. Without the distinctive black-and-yellow coloring.
The 1980s Samsung Logo
As Samsung continued to expand into the 1980s. It underwent yet another re-imagining of the Samsung logo. This time to a design that would be more recognizable to modern consumers.
Though still a far cry from the contemporary Samsung logo we know today. Through the 1980s and into the early 1990s. The company continued to use variations on its original three-star design. Introducing a word-free logo that featured three different four-pointed stars arranged. With two stacked on top of one another and the third off to the side.
In addition, though the most prominent feature. The stars in this Samsung logo are formed using negative space. Futhermore, with the actual design using ten diamond shapes. To create the exterior contours of the stars.
This same three-stars-constructed-of-diamonds Samsung logo introduced in the 1980s. Also came in a version that included a wordmark. With the graphical element reduced significantly in size.
And placed in front of the word “Samsung.” In this version, the diamonds appear in a bright red color, and the word “Samsung” is spelled out in a bold. Sans serif font that is much heavier than the sleek wordmark in use today.
The 1993 Samsung Logo
In 1993, Samsung introduced the Samsung logo as we know it today. Also, which features a leaner wordmark ensconced in an oblong blue oval. This version of the Samsung logo finally dropped the three-star design. For good, literally and symbolically. Placing that era of the company behind them as the company looked to the future it was helping to shape.
The blue oval, tilted at a ten-degree angle, is, according to some commentators. Intended to represent the blue orb of the Earth as it races through space. Demonstrating how far the company had come from the days.
When the Samsung logo hearkened back to the company’s earlier role in wheat production. From the fruits of the earth itself to a view from space. The evolution of the Samsung logo is, in a sense, an allegory for the history of the company itself.
As one of the world’s largest makers of consumer electronics. Samsung literally has helped shape the world we inhabit today. Influencing our habits. The way we communicate with one another, and even the ways in which we perceive and interact with our world.
While it is easy to overlook the influence of such large corporate players. The fact is that they have an enormous influence on the direction our culture takes. As they seek to respond to as well as dictate consumer tastes.
By examining something. As seemingly innocuous and straightforward as the changes to the Samsung logo. One can learn a great deal about the changing role of electronics in consumers’ lives. As well as how Samsung sought to cultivate this relationship between human and machine.
In less than a century since Samsung was founded in 1938. The kind of equipment Samsung manufactures has migrated from the agricultural field into the home. Also, where its devices have become an integral, everyday part of most people’s lives.
This is symbolized within the Samsung logo by its evolution from a design. Featuring wheat plants to one purporting to show the world from space.