AMSTERDAM – Samsung releases its Serif TV in the Netherlands through the bricks and mortar retail channels of Vitra.
The Serif story began two years ago when Samsung reached out to the Bouroullec brothers to design a TV for the tech giant. Despite not owning a television themselves, they said yes. ‘Simply because I think there is a need for new answers, new solutions,’ says Erwan Bouroullec. ‘Personally I found the world of TV is a bit monosymmetric. It’s probably why I myself never came back into it’. So the team's target emerged as designing a TV for someone that does not want one.
Upon first glance, one might say the Bourollecs turned back the clock to resolve the issue at hand, leading to its vintage look. A brisk walk down memory lane reveals Samsung’s first commercial TV in the 70s was encased by a wooden cabinet on four legs, a free-standing piece of furniture. Since then, over the course of 40 years, the base was meticulously minimised and finally eliminated so that the object could hang on the wall like an animated painting. With Bouroullec’s play-derived design for Serif, legs have reemerged– ironically as san-serif struts which can be easily detached – and a full circle appears to have been completed.
‘I have to say, I forgot this TV is on four legs. As soon as you connect to something that is simple, most of the time you also connect to a deeper history,’ says Erwan. ‘We live in smaller space, we also are permanently in movement. The size of the family is changing all the time, sometimes we have some friends and we are changing from space to space. We really need to be efficient at this time.’
Despite the logical answer of a thinner-than-thin TV to suit the demands of saving space, the Bouroullecs rejected super thinness and dealt with the primary parameter of life: gravity. The object transforms with a twist and moves in a jiff, crossing boundaries within living spaces. Whether its standing in a corner or sitting on a table or bookshelf, Serif adapts to life's constraints. 'Me and my brother, we don't design for shape, we design for solution.'
For the detail-philes among us, the namesake projections along the profile of the screen is ironically complemented with a minimal menu – of sans-serif typography no less – which strips away unnecessary options. ‘For the interface we made inside, we’ve just been taking out some functions,’ confirms Erwan. For the techies among us, the options are there, but buried a bit deeper into the interface to place user-friendliness as a top priority. For the commercial haters and subsequent channel changers among us, simply draw the digital curtains to momentarily conceal pesky advertisements and seamlessly return to scheduled programming as soon as they go away.
With these aesthetic and functional improvements returning an aspect of home life to the product, it comes as no surprise that Samsung’s Serif TV experienced successful launches in France, Scandinavia and the UK. According to Erwan Bouroullec, 'this project has much more of an audience than a traditional object because it went to a wider audience that is not interested by tables, chairs or architecture. It’s clear and simple that some people need and want something else but hadn’t found the right answer.’
With a dedicated e-tail environment since its debut which shares the product's details and story, Samsung takes an unconventional approach for the launch of its home-centred product in the Netherlands. Its furniture-leaning TV will be dispersed via bricks and mortar stores which offer a wholistic perspective of purchasing living spaces. And not just any furniture retailer for that matter. Tackling the marketing challenge head on, Samsung joined forces with the furniture connoisseurs at Vitra.
The Germany-based brand is known for their extensive collections made by notable designers of every generation since its founding – which in fact began as a mission to bring the Eames' designs to Europe – as well as the regularly expanded upon architectural wonderland at its Weil am Rhein headquarters slash campus. Vitra-filled living spaces now present a TV revamped to replace the black screen void which sucks in wall-space with an element that realistically belongs in a home. Erwan confirms: ‘A TV is a much simpler technology at the end. Now the real issue is more about the screen. How do you live with it? Now the big thing is not to design the technology, but more to design our relationship with the technology.’
A super store setting where the walls are lined with hundreds of televisions – and where the lowest price is king – does not give an object with a timeless appeal a chance to survive. As new models roll out every season to render their one-year-old relatives as antiques, prices fall like lead bricks. Higher display resolution, vivid colour rendering on thinner screens create a new and improved viewing experience. ‘In the usual TV shops, the only things you speak about are speed, power and price. Sales belong to the world of electronic. It’s natural that the electronics are more taken into consideration. What happened to the furniture around it, and vice versa? You don’t even have anything that helps you even understand the scale of what you see. Sometimes you don’t find out if it small or big or what. I think these things need to collaborate to be efficient. To me, it feels totally natural to go into an interior environment,’ says Erwan.
As of March 2016, select Vitra retailers located across the Netherlands invite consumers to kick back and relax on a comfortable counch and truly experience the Serif TV as they would in their own living room. Since after all – and in Erwan's words: 'Its more important to have an object that feeds your daily life'. So the real question is, why didn't anyone think of this revolutionary retail combination before? That's what we're wondering.
In Frame #109, the Bouroullec brothers recall who and what got them to where they are today. Find the March/April issue in the Frame store.