With the release earlier this year of the sleek, ultra-thin Adamo laptop, Dell was looking to do more than just compete with Apple's MacBook Air in the stylish and thin notebook category. It was looking to signal the era of clunky, utilitarian Dell designs is over.

As vice-president of Dell's global consumer industrial design organization, Ed Boyd is leading Dell's new approach to design on the consumer side. Boyd came to Dell from senior design positions with Nike and Sony, and has been working to build a worldwide design organization that now includes 120 people from every industry, including furniture, architecture and industrial designers.

"Michael Dell's directive two years ago was to build a design staff that can start delivering eight away," said Boyd, adding distributing the team worldwide is key. "We want to have insight into all of our customer markets."

While Boyd's focus is on the consumer side, he said a similar effort is underway on the enterprise side, and both groups share offices and information. And their first goal was to design a brand architecture that will appeal to different sets of consumers.

"We had a fundamental decision to make on the consumer side: build the same product for everyone, or different products for different people," said Boyd. "When Dell was founded, Michael (Dell) custom-built PCs in his dorm one-by-one. As we built a design organization we want to build different brands for different consumers, with complete customization inside and out."

If you're standing at a Best Buy, trying to decide what product to buy, Boyd said the goal is to make it simple. If you spend a lot of time mixing video and music, you should have a Studio laptop. If you do email and chat, an Inspiron. For gamers, it's Alienware.

And then there's the new Adamo laptop, which Boyd calls Dell's luxury brand that deliver mobility like never before. And in what Dell boats is the world's thinnest laptop, at just 16mm thick.