By Woo Jae-yeon
SEOUL, Oct. 2 (Yonhap) -- In recent years, LG Electronics Inc., a global leader in traditional home appliances, has striven to become an industry leader that creates hardly-seen-before and innovative devices, ranging from a steam closet to an automated indoor gardening device to a home brewer.
Such moves, regardless of how niche of a targeted market it is, show the South Korean tech company's efforts to deliver a totally new experience to customers, Chung Wook-jun, vice president and head of H&A (Home Appliance & Air Solution) Design Lab. at LG Electronics' Life Innovation Design Center, said in a recent interview.
"Rather than making mass-market products, it has become ever more important to serve specific needs or a niche market in this rapidly changing world with so many different lifestyles," Chung said.
What sets LG apart from other home appliance makers, he said, is that the tech company is trying to deliver more tailored products based on new lifestyle trends, learned through careful research on individual customers' needs.
Understanding new trends and creating "first, unique and new" products in a timely manner are key to staying ahead of the competition and becoming a truly valuable company, he said.
With that concept in mind LG's Objet Collection was launched in October 2020, becoming a high-end line that allowed customers to choose colors and finishes for their home devices with interchangeable panels, Chung said.
The latest addition to the collection was the MoodUp refrigerator, an illuminating fridge that is designed to literally lift the mood by adding colors, music and lighting to a user's kitchen.
First unveiled at IFA 2022 in Berlin last month, Europe's biggest tech fair, it can change the colors of its LED door via LG's ThinQ application, with 22 colors for the upper door panel and 19 colors for the lower section. The fridge is fitted with a built-in Bluetooth speaker and artificial intelligence features that include blinking when it detects someone approaching at night, or when the door has been left open for too long.
"The product came about as a result of extensive research into people's changing lifestyles and investment and social media habits," Chung said, especially at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed people's idea of home, which became the location for everything from exercise to socializing to work.
As people have become more open to sharing their home life on social media than ever before, the MoodUp fridge could serve as a useful tool for them to show their unique taste and fun personality, he said.
Chung started working at LG as a product designer in 1998 and has moved up the corporate ladder to become the head of the company's Home Appliance & Air Solution (H&A) design center in 2018, spearheading the launch of LG's Objet Collection.
Dismissing the notion that designers take a backseat to developers, Chung stressed his center has become deeply involved in product development from the very early stages.
"There are so many products that were conceived and developed by the center. Our designers are required to play a more active role in the process."
As hard as it may seem, inspiration can be found in everyday life experiences -- sometimes surprisingly easily and unexpectedly, he said.
A few years ago, an idea about a washing machine that washes two loads of laundry at once naturally came to him when he watched his wife separate his laundry from that of their young daughter. That observation helped his team come up with Twin Wash, with two washers stacked in one washing machine.
"I feel so rewarded when customers use our products the way we had originally intended and they are satisfied with the experience."
Early this year, LG rolled out upgradable home appliances, LG UP, to better serve consumers' varying needs, in what it said could be a major shift from just selling products to offering improved consumer experiences.
Users will be able to easily update their home appliances through the ThinQ app to install new features without having to buy a whole new product.
"It is like instilling soul into objects," Chung said of the development and launch of LG UP appliances. "They are constantly evolving and developing, adding new value to customers' living spaces."
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