A few years ago, Home Depot started to think about its own improvement. Facing slow growth and fierce competition, the largest retailer of home-improvement products needed to reverse its potential fate in the tough business climate. Enter Peter Arnell, the advertising guru and product designer who has developed an unprecedented relationship with the home-goods superpower. This fall Arnell and Home Depot will unveil Orange Works, a line of innovative products for all facets of the home. In collaborative laboratories, Arnell and his team examine a design problem and test-drive ways to fix it. Their first product, the Home Hero fire extinguisher, left, tackles a dilemma that has special meaning for Arnell. As chief creative officer and honorary commissioner for the New York City fire department, Arnell is well aware that often homeowners can't find their extinguishers when faced with a fire. But the sleek, unobtrusive Home Hero can be stored visibly in the kitchen, which translates to a find-and-deploy time of just 8 sec. "This is the first time design is being used as a strategic weapon to bring true differentiation to the consumer," Arnell says. "Our game is about rethinking the whole way."