is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Last Friday, before I boarded a red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York, the airline representative at the gate made an announcement that any passengers traveling with a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 must turn that device off before boarding, and were forbidden from turning it on during the flight. I tweeted about it at the time.
About to board a flight and they made an announcement specifically about the Galaxy Note 7: "Do not power it on if you have one."
— Khoi Vinh (@khoi) September 10, 2016
This of course was a response to the Note 7’s notorious exploding battery incidents. In fact, the devices have not been banned by the FAA, just cited in an advisory. Still, the situation is extremely grim for Samsung, as plenty of airline passengers are hearing the same warnings.
Two announcements (pre-flight and right after takeoff) about FAA regulations against using the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 at all during flight.
— Quintin Carlson (@decryptalpha) September 14, 2016
Have been warned THREE separate times about the Samsung galaxy note 7 exploding before this flight. Worst ad campaign ever
— ಠ_ಠ (@MikeIsaac) September 13, 2016
Flight attendant currently giving a "Galaxy Note 7 safety advisory," saying they have to be completely off.
— Jim Dalrymple II (@JimDalrympleII) September 13, 2016
Today at plane: "@samsung galaxy note 7 should be completelly shutdown and is not allow to recharge it during the flight" Nice advertising!?
— Sergio Sisternes (@sesispla) September 14, 2016
These exploding batteries make for a terrible turn of events for Samsung—not to mention a horrible safety risk for their customers. But Samsung’s response does not seem to be up to the task of managing the crisis. Forbes writes in this article that the scandal is proving to be very damaging:
…the approach taken by the South Korean company is taking a significant amount of time, looks haphazard when viewed from the outside, and the story is being defined by external agencies–such as the FAA and international airlines banning the Note 7 from being turned on while on board.
Potentially embarrassing and even dangerous technological flaws are a fact of life for every hardware company—they may be extremely rare, but they are an ever present risk. What sets the best companies apart from others is their ability to respond in a way that preserves their brand and wins back the trust of customers. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine a worse situation for Samsung than having what amounts to a public service announcement before every flight advising customers not to use your product.+