Sir James Dyson
For my design theory class, I was assigned to research a twentieth-century designer. Wanting to make it easier on myself, I chose one of the more famous and most recognizable designers: Sir James Dyson. Now I admit that not many people may think of the man himself, but just about everyone knows a Dyson product when they see one. Although he and his company has made great waves in the engineering industry, Sir James Dyson is not an engineer, he is a designer.
Sir James Dyson, who was born on May 2, 1947, is a British industrial designer, inventor, and entrepreneur. First, he went to one of the most prestigious schools in North Norfolk. After that, he went to the Byam Shaw School of Art in London from 1965-66 before heading to study furniture and interior design at the Royal College of Art from 1966-70. While still a student, he took up a job working for Rotork, which is a British manufacturing company. Dyson invented the sea truck at the young age of 23. The vessel was made of fiberglass with a load capacity of up to three tons. This boat was then used by military and oil/construction companies alike. The classic Dyson invention before vacuums and other household appliances was the BallBarrow made in 1974. The product itself is simple and ingenious. James Dyson saw the struggles of traditional wheelbarrows constantly getting stuck in the mud. What he did was put a wide plastic hopper on a frame with a wide plastic ball for a wheel. This made improvements with both weight and stabilization. One of the iconic things about this invention is the ball, which is clearly seen as an inspiration for a lot of his vacuums.
Dyson, as a company, has a simple motto: to question the things that already exist and how can we improve them? Dyson says in an interview with Plastics Magazine that “Dyson is first and foremost an engineering company. Our main concern is developing and commercializing products that are most effective than those that are already on the market…Our desire to create beautiful objects is in no way essential. We are guided by practicality and not appearance.” The main focus of the man and the company is efficiency and how they can attribute better things to improve our society.
I couldn’t find anything that officially ties James Dyson to any specific times and movements, but I definitely see a strong influence of the Bauhaus movement in his designs. Bauhaus (or Staatliches Bauhaus) was a school in Germany with the main goal of “…uniting all branches of the arts under one roof.” I see clear parallels between the works of Dyson and Bauhaus because “the style of Bauhaus is commonly characterized as a combination as a combination of the Arts and Crafts movement with modernism…” I clearly see this concept in the works of Dyson and his company. For instance, the Dyson Fan is a very modern take on the traditional fan that we are all used to. Not only does it have a very abstract and artistic look, but it is also very geometric in shape. The base is a clear circle and cylindrical, while the top fan portion is more of an oval, square shape. Very unique and different, but clean and very basic looking. That is one of the fundamentals that I got from a designer who learned from Bauhaus like Dieter Rams. To him, some of the things that make good design are friendly to the environment and honest. What he means by honest is that the product shouldn’t seem more powerful nor valuable than it is. It is transparent to the user. James Dyson admits that he is “…a firm believer in function over form.” That, I believe is a clear example of how Bauhaus is reflected in his work.
Everyone seems to know James Dyson for his vacuum. Sir James Dyson got the inspiration for his groundbreaking vacuum technology by noticing that the sawdust in a local sawmill was being removed by a large, industrial cyclone. Dyson got to thinking, “Could that cyclone concept be made to work on a smaller scale?” So, he got to work. He started his ideation process to find a new alternative to the bag-using vacuums. In a five year period, Dyson made 5,127 prototypes before he got his final concept that worked. At his time in Dyson’s life, he was very much in debt and needed an avenue for his bagless vacuum to get to market. The Japanese company Apex lent a helping hand, and James Dyson’s G-Force vacuum started production in 1986. Twenty-Two months later they launched the DC0, which was the first Dyson vacuum which proved to be a bestseller.