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DEI Creates Global Design Center; Taps DiTullo

May 3, 2012 By Nancy Klosek
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DEI Holdings, parent company of the Polk Audio, Definitive Technology and Viper brands, has created a Global Design Center that will support development of products in those and other of the company’s labels. It is to be based at DEI’s Vista, Calif., headquarters and led by Michael DiTullo, who has been hired as chief design officer. DiTullo was most recently creative director at frog design, where he orchestrated projects for Google, P&G and Motorola.

“We recognized that design has become increasingly important not only in CE but in consumer products, more broadly,” Kevin Duffy, DEI president, told CustomRetailer. “We’re really fortunate to find somebody of the caliber of Michael.  Our goal is to take the 30-years-plus experience with the brands we have, and the acoustic performance and technical capabilities for which we are known, and make sure we continue to evolve and accelerate aesthetic design based on insights we get through research.”
Duffy said that beyond product design, the Center will also be involved in helping to shape website design, brand strategy and the user interface experience. “It will be integral to all those pieces working closely together,” he added.  “We’re making a big investment in this,” he explained, saying the expenditure also extended to the addition of staff and to funding more consumer research. 

“The core of the mission is to develop a strategic vision across all the brands,” said DiTullo. “With our portfolio, we have the ability to touch all types of consumers in the audio and automotive marketplaces, developing products that emotionally resonate with different types of people.  There’s design with a lowercase ‘d’ – how something manifests in shape and color. At our core will be that kind of design with a capital ‘D,’ which will be digging into what are we making, and for who, and what are the hopes, dreams, needs and aspirations of the people we’re trying to serve so we can develop products that respond to culture as well as influence it.”

DiTullo said the Center’s activities will be informed by the results of “immersive research – going where people live, spending time with them and how they live with products.”  Duffy said that both this immersive, “ethnographic” research as well as the sensibilities of “a broad set of people who have been in this industry for a pretty long time” will be brought to bear in the designs that are being conceived. 

People tend to find “workarounds” in how they learn to live with consumer electronics, Duffy observed. “Some accept products and get used to them. But when you are watching them, you see it and say, ‘That’s something we can fix.’ I don’t think you get a lot when you have people filling out a form. You get a lot when you watch someone do a certain thing with a product.”

DEI plans to make announcements about the first iterations of products to show the influence of this effort at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show, said Duffy. On the home products side, focus will be trained on DEI’s core audio loudspeaker products, but also on products in the personal audio space, including headphones and portable wireless audio.

“I think we will influence every user touch point, at every step of implementation, working very collaboratively with the teams at the brands,” said DiTullo. “They’re extremely talented, and also really passionate. They’re musicians, they customize their cars. To get to work with these teams and help them to sharpen their strategic vision and differentiate in the marketplace is exciting to me.”


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