While it's dealing with a massive PR headache surrounding its sale of faulty hardware to customers and then trying to cover up the mess, Dell is quietly courting the underground with a new partnership with online t-shirt store/community Threadless that adds custom laptop designs to its Dell Design Studio.
Threadless produces t-shirts based on user designs that the community votes on, and has the serious hipster cred that Dell sorely lacks. Eleven Threadless designs are available for Dell Mini or Studio laptops, and the two companies say the Design Studio will be "regularly refreshed" with new Threadless designs.
While the Design Studio offers some populist options -- like Major League Baseball logo-based lids -- it does have its share of unique designs that can otherwise obscure the fact you purchased a highly standardized piece of technology from a huge corporation. This is called "customization." Of course, you better like that design -- because it's imprinted on the case lid for as long as the laptop lives. (No one ever regrets getting a tattoo, right?) Maybe I'll wait for holographic case designs so I can change them on a whim.
In the meantime, Dell will be serving as a sponsor for the Threadless Everywhere Tour, which celebrates the t-shirt company's 10th anniversary. Will Dell's underwriting help it create a positive impression with Generation Y and Millenial types, or will it look to Threadless fans like an encroachment on indie territory -- and a bit of a sellout by Threadless?