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Dell Does Design--And Gets Beat Up.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on July 11, 2006

Dell’s director of industrial design, Ken Musgrave, gave me (and probably 1,000 other people in the innovation/design media) a show-and-tell recently, offering up new design directions for Dell computers. It was an interesting demo—first because a couple of the designs were pretty good and one doesn’t ordinarily associate Dell with design and second, because Dell has clearly decided that it needs to compete on more than price and service.

But can this elephant learn to dance? Dell is trying to make the moves. It’s advertising now focuses on customer experience and emotion rather than speed and price. The ads play to Dell’s strength of customization. The “Purely You” tag to the ads reflect Dell’s ability to build just about anything you want. So that’s good.

However, as Jeff Jarvis points out in BuzzMachine, Dell’s foray into the blogging world isn’t so good. The Dell blog is doing more outputting than inputting, it’s talking to people as opposed to listening and getting into an ongoing conversation. And what is that conversation? It’s all about deteriorating Dell service. That’s what Dell should be talking about.

To Dell’s credit, it’s blog today acknowledges Jarvis’ criticism and promises to do better. That’s evidence of learning, iteration and desire to change. Which brings us back to Dell’s move into design. From what I’ve seen, it isn’t earth-shattering but it is competent. And if Dell can begin to exercise the kind of focus and energy in design and product innovation that it has brought to supply chain innovation, it can start to remake itself. Hey, IBM, P&G, Starwood, Kodak and others have done it. Dell has a shot.

Okay, it does have to change it’s luck as well. That exploding Dell computer in Japan probably marks Dell’s low for the PR cycle.

Reader Comments


July 13, 2006 9:12 PM

if you do not associate DELL with design your definition of design is clearly far too narrow.

firstly: not only the things that one personally relates to exclusively qualify as design (- maybe personally you fall for APPLE - but maybe others prefer the less feminine DELL every time... - your taste is just your personal thing - this is a lesson that ethnography teaches ).p>

secondly and most importantly: the DELL business modell is an all time classic and an eternal showcase of DESIGN and DESIGN THINKING

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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