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By Sean Captain

Having grown infamous as the bland-box company, Dell is pushing hard to break out of the old stereotype. This evening in Manhattan, the company held something of a coming-out party to celebrate its new design direction.

The most style shows up in the Dell Studio 15 and Studio 17 laptops, which now offer about 220 cover designs infused into the plastic lid of the PC – both solid colors and fanciful illustrations created by dozens of visual artists.

Under a new Dell Studio program, the company recruits artists four times each year to design notebook finishes that follow a theme. The first 200-odd designs are all meant to reflect the theme “Today.”

I must confess that the only way I perceived that theme is that I saw them all “today.” Otherwise, the designs are all over the map. Not that it’s a bad thing, though. “It was basically each artist bringing their interpretation of the word ‘today,’ which was pretty great,” said Deanne Cheuk, who created a collection of four geometrically psychedelic designs called “Pyramid.” She praised the wide latitude that the mandate gave her.

The “today” theme came from Dell’s VP for consumer design, Ed Boyd. But future themes will come from outside the company. “We wanted to get…a bunch of different perspectives,” said Maria Stansberry, the manager of the Design Studio program. “What we thought would be boring is if we just had it internally curated. So we’ve decided to reach out to very different artists every quarter, and we’ve asked them to develop a body of work.”

Stansberry declined to name the next curator, but said that he or she is well known in the art world. She also said that Dell will be recruiting curators with broad backgrounds—not just painters but also other types of artists, such as animators.

Will Dell also broaden the number of products buyers can customize beyond a few laptops? “I can definitely say that we are growing the program,” said Stansberry.

Filed in Computers >Events >Top Stories. Read more about Dell.

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