For a while, every time my wife and I went to the local big box store we would stop by the vacuum cleaner section and check out the Dyson products. We would take them off the shelf and go through the motions with each set of products. My wife would always ask me, “How do you think they look”? The designer in me could not overlook the bright utility colors and the strong use of machine form language.
And then one day, our old Hoover vacuum literally bit the dust. We brought home the hyper-colored Dyson. I began putting the over-designed object together. The box of parts transformed into a vacuuming tool within our living room. It made me think about invention, design, and true innovation. The big question that came to my mind was “Where does invention exist within product design?”
I began vacuuming my house. Flurries of dirt were sucked from the carpet and started swirling around in a dusty cyclone. It triggered a feeling of empowerment. As the power tool displayed its true effectiveness, it made me realize that this product was revolutionary within its market. The Dyson vacuum cleaner represented new technology in a category that had remained stagnant for decades.
This revolutionary product was not developed haphazardly. Engineering and designing this vacuum required the Edison approach of good old trial-and-error where a prototype must be built and thoroughly tested. The methodological approach is to use failure as a catalyst for insight, improvement and refinement. Multiple cycles of revisions lead to a perfect model.
Dyson built 5,271 prototypes in four years until he reached a machine that would satisfy his expectations. Invention involves this trial-and-error method, because invention takes time and persistence. These qualities are also essential to true design and engineering breakthroughs. Of utmost importance in this process is the continuous collaboration between designers and engineers from the beginning to the end of the product development process. When designers and engineers take the time to invent products from the ground up, they have the power to infuse change into the world.