You might not have given much thought to how vacuum cleaners are designed and produced. In fact, for many years there was little innovation in the way they work. Companies stuck to a basic model of machines that collected dirt and dust in removable bags, and moved on four stationary wheels.
vacuum cleaner industry
James Dyson, an industrial designer and inventor, saw an opportunity for improvement.
It was clear that regular vacuum cleaners weren’t cleaning effectively. He realized that the universally accepted concept of using a bag to collect debris was limiting the machines’ efficiency. On top of that, they were clumsy and difficult to maneuver.
James knew there had to be a solution for these obvious problems, and set about trying to find it.
“Failure is a wonderful starting point, because when something fails, you know exactly what the problem is, and you’ve then got to think and experiment to overcome that failure”James DysonDyson CEO
“That’s the whole point about inventing: it’s not easy. It’s that what you’re doing is impossible, and that no one has managed to do it before. But you just build prototypes, keep testing, and never give up”James DysonDyson CEO
The first problem James tackled was the dirt collection mechanism. He looked for something that could replace the ubiquitous bags, and was inspired by the cyclones used in sawmills. He started creating models of miniature cyclones, which eliminated the issue of loss of suction. 5,127 prototypes later, he had developed and patented cyclone technology—and the Dyson vacuum cleaner was born.
The next challenge was to improve maneuverability. Traditional vacuum cleaners had four wheels, requiring you to pull them back and forth to change direction—and wasting lots of energy. James and his team came up with the idea of using one wheel instead of four; a ball that rolled in every direction. They housed the machine’s lightweight engine inside this ball, lowering the center of gravity and making it even easier to move.
The initial success of Dyson was driven by market forces. They researched what consumers in different markets wanted, and adapted their product to fit those needs. Since then, they’ve continued to improve their designs. Every Dyson employee has a confidential notebook to record their work. They sign and date it at the end of each day to ensure that their ideas are protected, and that they’ll get credit for their own designs.
Product design consists of generating and developing ideas in order to create products that meet human needs.
Product designers take into account ergonomics, aesthetics, operation, and general use. They combine art, science, and technology to develop tangible results. Their goal is to create products that are not only practical, but also visually pleasing and user-friendly.
What is industrial design?
Industrial design applies to products that are manufactured through mass production.
In this case, the design process is separate from the manufacturing process. First, the designer creatively determines the product’s form and features. Then, the product is physically produced through automatic replication.
This sets it apart from craft design, in which the product’s form is determined and produced at the same time by its creator.
Through innovative industrial product design, the Dyson team has developed vacuum cleaners that are efficient, effective, and easy to use. James Dyson identified a problem and was determined to solve it. Once he did, however, he didn’t stop looking for ways to improve his product.
This is the nature of product design; it’s continuous and constantly evolving to suit consumer needs.
Well-designed products can transform people’s lives, whether by making daily tasks—like vacuuming—easier, or by revolutionizing entire industries.