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Crave tours Dell's design labs

Crave gets a tour of the two labs where Dell is trying to reinvent itself as a maker of PCs and server products.

Two years ago, Dell had never even used a color beyond gray, black, or white in any of its computer casings.

But after losing its footing as the world's largest maker of computers and figuring out way too late that consumers had begun to think of their computers as extensions of their personalities, Dell has retooled the way it thinks about PCs. A big part of that is totally rethinking the role of design. The company now has 100 designers, and five outposts around the world where it researches and test-drives colors, patterns, and textures for specific markets.

"There's been a concerted effort in the last five years to not be regarded as a maker of cheap PCs," Tom Deelman, senior manager who specializes in usability in the company's enterprise product design group, told Crave during a tour of the company's facilities in Round Rock, Texas.

Since those first brightly colored Inspirons hit the runway at a splashy New York press event, Dell has become even more adventurous with color and design, with the XPS laptops, Studio XPS notebooks, and the small form factor Studio Hybrid Desktop.

Part of the "concerted effort," of course, also means letting sites like Crave get a look at exactly what role the design department plays. Make sure to check out our photos of both the consumer and enterprise design labs.