In 1971 James Dyson bought a 300-year-old farm home and began renovating it. It didn’t take Dyson long to realize his extreme distaste for wheelbarrows. Being a man with expertise in design and engineering, he set upon designing a more effective wheelbarrow. His solution was a deep molded-plastic trough and a ball in place of a wheel: The Ballbarrow. The British loved it. He stormed the market, winning a large share and selling successfully. However, the Ballbarrow was not to be his great success. An employee stole his idea and ran off to the American market with a knockoff. Thus the Ballbarrow’s market growth was severely diminished. Dyson had two options: to get caught up in litigation or move on. He chose to move on to another common item that exasperated him: the vacuum.
Frustrated with the loss of suction strength and how quickly bag filters got clogged, he was determined to find a solution to maintain suction power. Using trial and error, he designed prototypes, tested them, and watched them fail. He discovered why and tried again. He created 5,271 prototypes, failing over and over again in his search for perfection before reaching his desired goal: The Dual Cyclone. His answer was a bag-less vacuum that used centrifugal force to separate dirt and dust, a complete revolution of vacuum design. He also turned the vacuum inside out, with the inner workings visible and the dust caught in a clear plastic midsection.
He demonstrated his invention to dozens of companies in the hopes of licensing it. No one was interested. They scoffed at the design, commenting on the integral nature of the bag to the vacuum, in addition to the seeming impracticality of the plastic material, and visibility of collected dirt. In 1985 a Japanese business finally took up the product. It became a huge success in the Japanese market. Eventually, Dyson established his manufacturer in Britain, with the vacuum going on sale in 1993 in the British market. In two years, the Dyson vacuum started to dominate the market.
Design continues to be an integral part of engineering in all of Dyson’s products. He continues to reimagine household items, designing the Air Multiplier, a new form of fan, among other products. Dyson persevered through countless failures and losses, all the while knowing he had superior design to offer and determined to bring it to the world.