Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dyson: never losing suction (or hope)

     James Dyson had a keen understanding and passion for engineering while enriching his artistic knowledge at London's Byam Shaw art school. Having the courses, tools, and resources to paint, but more importantly, to build, Dyson began his ongoing and intimate relationship with a new type of architecture. Also, having design heroes like Michael Faraday, Charles Goodyear, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Dyson had a solid scientific and creative foundation on which he began to build his ideas. After developing a high-speed landing craft in school, Dyson's engineering aspirations took off.
     He began creating prototypes for products that solved everyday problems for everyday people. His development of a new style of wheelbarrow--one with a big round ball as the wheel and large back feet (as to not sink into the ground) was his first big work. He then moved on to what he is most widely known for: vacuums. Five thousand prototypes later, Dyson created his first vacuum: the Dual Cyclone technology in his DC01 vacuum.
     After fighting with and persuading people to invest and believe in his new take on an old idea, he had a new battle. Once his ideas caught on, others tried to make their own versions. Now, with more than 17 different styles of vacuums, 8 different fan and heater styles sold in more than 45 countries around the world, Dyson has become an important face in household products and problem solving.

     But is that really creative? To me, absolutely.
     As seen in the video above, Dyson solves a problem with his creations, especially his vacuums. The Dyson website shares James Dyson's story of determination and persistence while building and bringing to life his ideas. But what attracts me to Dyson products is there sleek style. While fixing an everyday problem, the product you use looks good doing it. And that is always a plus.


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  2. "Five thousand prototypes later, ..."
    That caught my attention. To me that brings up the idea that creativity requires execution! Clearly, sir Dyson not only had a creative idea and a vision, but he was extremely meticulous before introducing even one vacuum. Five thousand prototypes sounds like a profitable venture to me! Product-makers use the principle of planned obsolescence to get the most money from one idea as is possible. Five thousand prototypes... I can only imagine how many hours, how many days, how many weeks, how many skipped meals and hours of sleep that might measure up to. I guess the most creative creations are those that are fueled by extremely passionate and motivated creator!

  3. I am not sure if Dyson meets a strict psychological definition of creative. To be sure, the inventions are useful and show a degree of problem restructuring. In addition, the accumulation of expertise and dogged application of said expertise is present. However, there is nothing particularly new. The issue of dust collection has not been redefined. Rather, the way to make a vacuum cleaner suck has been more deeply explored. The shift in novelty is not, in my mind, very big. To make this slightly more personal, I have a friend who is a professional designer. He creates product designs and then works intimately with engineers to insure successful completion. We have discussed on several occasions about his lack of both artistic and creative ability. I find myself telling him that he is creative and constantly making new things. He, on the other hand, maintains that design is simply applying learned technique to projects to which you may or may not care about. In essence, my friend treats product design as more of a mercenary act than a creative one. In playing devil's advocate, I wonder if Dyson is really creative or more aptly a highly skilled mercenary in the war against dust bunnies.

  4. I agree, the statement that it took him 5,000 prototypes to come to his most recent creation, speaks volumes of his creativity. Many of the creatives we have studied thus far, specifically Einstein comes to mind, have not settled on one single creative product. It is in their very nature to constantly be improving. I think this stems from the fact that, as a creative person, they are able to find more problems than those of us who are not as creative. Many people would look at a vacuum and be quite content with how it functioned, but Dyson found a problem when many others didn't. The first step to being creative is acknowledging these problems which seem to appear out of thin air. Much like that moment of insight in problem solving, there is that initial spark when a problem is discovered. And once that problem is acknowledged, the rest of the creative process flows. I believe it is safe to say that Dyson's most recent product is an accumulation of problems he has addressed throughout his work. Instead of starting over each time, he takes a product that has already solved one problem and finds a new problem to address. Maybe this is why creative individuals seem to be more successful.

  5. To weigh in, I'm also unsure whether I think that Dyson is especially creative. Undoubtedly, he meets some of the requirements set forth by Gardner and others - relentless pursuit/passion of trying to create something. He certainly contributed much time and effort to his process; but, I wonder, if that is because he was coming up with something truly creative or whether it is because he was so stuck within the barriers already set forth by standard home cleaning machines and really could only marginally build upon the current cleaning domain. For Dyson, the entire concept of household cleaning devices like vacuums already existed. Breaking out of the mold and thinking of some completely new way to engineer or create something is certainly an oftentimes insurmountable task, hence why we have so few "Big C" creatives that are recognized.

    Rather, I believe Dyson innovated the vacuuming "industry" (if that even exists) to an extent. Did he make a task more efficient? Sure. But really, did that task even need to be improved upon? I've never even seen a Dyson vacuum, so I wonder if the product innovation was really even that necessary for the masses. While Dyson certainly found a "problem" he saw with conventional vacuums, I still struggle to understand how much of a problem it actually was.


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