How Demetrius Became the Global Industrial Design Master at Targus
Demetrius Romanos: Corporate Industrial Design Innovator.
Inside the designer’s universe of inspiration, global alliances, and his favorite Targus laptop backpacks.
Targus, like many other companies, started out with an idea to provide a solution. In present day, that idea has become a global corporation with hundreds of talented individuals internationally. Demetrius Romanos is the Vice President of Global Design and Product Management for cases here at Targus. When Demetrius is not at home with his family (and cute dog named Iggy), vacationing, or at trade shows, he is in our HQ being the anchor for the design team. Here is an insight to look at how our VP discovered his passion, finds daily inspiration, and reveals his most favorite bags.
When did you decide that industrial design was a field you wanted to pursue?
I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by creative professionals, and having always been curious and artistic, I knew that I would eventually pursue a career in design or an applied art. Fast forward to my teenage years, I had the opportunity to tour the University of Cincinnati (where my dad had just started teaching and my eventual alma mater) during their end of the year show. All the graduating seniors had their projects displayed gallery style and as I walked the show I got broad exposure to architecture, interior design, graphic design, fine arts, fashion design, etc. But when I saw the section that had cars and shoes and power tools and medical devices, my eyes lit up! As it turned out, I had walked into the Industrial Design studio and from that moment, I was hooked. At 13 years old I knew exactly what I wanted to study and 5 years later I was accepted into that renowned program. The rest is history!
I know that you spent a great deal of time as a Vice President of Design/ Executive Creative Director/ Chief Strategist while at Kaleidoscope, what types of items did you design and how has that helped you create products at Targus?
In the 15+ years of working in Design consultancies, I learned to bridge the right and left parts of my brain, realizing quickly how inextricably linked Design and Business need to be to be most successful. Over that time, I built and led teams in design, research, strategy, and brand where we worked to understand people and their unique needs, balancing those with business objectives to create amazing product experiences that ranged from everyday things like Tide detergent pods and Swiffer sweepers to products as complex as surgical devices for Johnson & Johnson, ATM machines for Diebold and appliances for Whirlpool. Every project was a chance to learn and create while partnering with awesome clients, and at the same time I was building their businesses as well as the ones I worked for. Coming to Targus, my intent was to bring a user-focused approach that’s fueled by passion, curiosity, and holistic brand thinking that is rooted in sound business fundamentals. So that every day when we work with our cross-functional teams and customers to create new products we are working collectively to drive the transformation of our company and to create meaningful experiences for our end users.
What or who inspired you to go into a hybrid career of design and strategic business development?
I’ve had some wonderful mentors and colleagues that have all played some part in shaping my career, so it’s hard to narrow down to any single person. I did have a boss who stressed that business is all about relationships, which I firmly believe. And as a “team-first” type of person, I also believe collaboration across disciplines is key to success. So, working closely with my teammates, clients, and customers has always been integral to anything I’ve done and as I said earlier, bridging design and business is imperative.
You have an impressive background, over two decades in a creative/design role, how do you constantly find inspiration to keep innovating?
I have a sign outside of my office that reads “Do What You Love” and I truly believe people should do that. I love that what I do is rooted in learning, thinking, problem solving, and creating. And you know what’s amazing? There will always be new users and new problems to solve, so inspiration is everywhere! You just have to know where and how to look for it. That said, I also think it’s important to know what truly gets your juices going, and for me it’s travel, shopping, and regular consumption of trend reports, fashion magazines, and social media scanning. With travel in particular, I find that when I am outside of my normal surroundings, seeing and experiencing things that are new to me, I can’t help but be inspired. I guess curiosity is just hard-wired into who I am so I’m constantly observing, reading, learning and re-applying to the things I do.
Out of all the designing that you have done throughout your career, what are your favorite items to create?
Hmm, that’s a tough one! Design is at its core: creative problem solving – with a simple 3-part recipe - understand the needs of the end users, the soul of the brand, and the business requirements then strategize to create appropriately beautiful solutions. All projects require varying degrees of those “ingredients”, so to a designer, it’s easy for all of your projects to end up being your favorites! But I admit, my favorite products are always very user-driven, focus on the emotional hook that makes something truly meaningful, and is woven together by a clear story. So, I tend to most enjoy designing memorable things and experiences that improve people’s lives and provide those ah-ha moments we strive for.
Teamwork is important in all work environments as a Vice President of Global Design and Product Management for cases at Targus, who depends on you, and who do you depend on in the company?
For any team to succeed, I believe that we all need to depend on each other and have a healthy dose of trust. Daily, I work to earn the trust of my teams and colleagues while making sure my actions demonstrate my value to them and to the business, just as they do the same. As a manager and leader, I try to be clear with my vision, my expectations (both for my teams and those I have of myself), to enable collaboration, and to demonstrate my commitment to our business and to our “purpose”. That allows me to feel confident that if I’m traveling for business or out on vacation, everyone is empowered to do their part and can lean on their teammates. Beyond that, I think it’s really important that we all remember, that though we might work in different departments and have different roles or regions, we all wear the same “jersey” and play for the same team that we are all trying to help win.
What excites you the most about being part of a global company and working alongside international teams?
I have dual-citizenship with Greece and grew up traveling between Europe and the US, so you could say I was officially a “global citizen” with my first passport when I was something like 10 months old! I loved the cultural exposure that growing up on 2 continents provided, so having colleagues in other parts of the world, with different perspectives, backgrounds and market insights is awesome, both personally and professionally. And one thing I love about Targus in particular, is though we’re separated by vast distances and time zones, we speak and collaborate so regularly that we truly feel like one big global team. Not to say that there aren’t challenges from time to time, but I wouldn’t trade that global footprint, influence, collaboration, and inspiration for anything.
In a world where everything from fashion to technology is evolving at a rapid pace, where do you see the future of bags, cases, and soft goods headed?
You could answer that question from a number of angles but let’s first rewind. Targus’s roots are in creating cases that protect technology products, which historically had meant laptops, tablets, and phones – almost exclusively in business applications. But think about human behavior today and its reliance on technology. We say we need to “get away” to the mountains and desert to “disconnect,” but then we take our tech with us to let everyone know that we’ve disconnected! The irony is hilarious, but it also gives us as a brand the right to broaden what we do and how people interact with our brand and products. We have the ability to stretch to other experiential areas that also require transporting gear and tech, so in many ways, the sky is the limit. I joke often that though technology is evolving at a crazy pace, one thing that’s been consistent since the dawn of time is a human’s need to carry their things. So regardless of which technologies come and go, we’ll be looking at how people integrate those into their lives and make amazing products to fill those practical and emotional needs. Alternatively, where technology may impact us the most could be in the manufacturing of our products. 3D printing and things like Flyknit have revolutionized other industries, so what could that mean for Targus?
What are your three most favorite bags or collections here at Targus, and why should every working professional globally have these in their rotation of mobile accessories?
Bags are very personal in many ways and I bet if you asked 10 different people what their favorite bag was and why, you’d likely get 10 different answers! A bag has to fit your style, your activities, and varying needs depending on your use case, so it’s hard to say which is best for someone. So, with that preface, here are my personal favorites for myself and why:
1. Newport 2-1 tote: This is my go-to work bag and I love it. I love the overall style, the color (which is neutral enough to work with what I wear while still subtly standing out), and it’s big enough to hold all I need while keeping me limited so I don’t carry more weight than I should.
2.Seoul Backpack: This is my perfect vacation backpack. It looks great – it’s sleek yet outdoorsy, and it has both a big compartment to stuff it with all my carry-on needs, but also has some quick access pockets for passport, water bottle, ear buds and sunglasses. I use the tan colored one and I got my wife the plum 14” version and I swear we get so many compliments on them every trip we take!
3.Balance EcoSmart Backpack: Aside from the fact that the resulting design was recognized by winning a prestigious Good Design Green award, I am most proud of the thinking and effort behind this backpack. Our team wanted to create a product that was not only better for the environment, but also better for people. The resulting collection is well thought out in addressing the needs of the end user, both physically through its ergonomic shoulder straps but also emotionally by using body materials that are made from recycled water bottles. And all wrapped in a great looking, functional design.