Silver Medal Recipient
2009 Best in Category: Floor Care Electrics
The Dyson DC24 Ball bagless upright, this year’s Housewares Design Award Winner for Floor Care Electrics represents a quantum shift in the way upright vacuum cleaners move. The traditional four-wheel design of most uprights has been replaced with a centrally located ball that holds the unit’s motor and provides enhanced maneuverability.
“With four wheels and a fixed axel, conventional vacuums are designed to only move in straight lines, back and forth,” James Dyson, founder of Dyson told HOMEWORLD BUSINESS®. “We replaced these wheels with a rotating ball, allowing the machine to pivot easily.”
The design for the DC24, like many product designs, was the product of experimentation. The company has often described its Edisonian approach to product design— identify a problem, develop a solution, test, adjust, test again— and utilized this same approach in developing the DC24.
“We learn through failure— trial and error. Because of this we may start off by asking one question and wind up answering an entirely different problem,” Dyson said. “With the DC24, we started off by sketching, quickly developing new ideas. Later we used bits of old machines to put these ideas into practice.”
He explained that one evening the company tried putting a wand handle on the end of a single DC07 wheel and then attached a canister floor tool and achieved a breakthrough. Next, the company replaced the wheel with a ball, containing the motor.
“We’d created a truly maneuverable machine that could go around the tightest corners, no wheels, no awkward moves.” Dyson said. “By allowing for creativity and the freedom to make mistakes, we could be truly innovative.”
All this is not to suggest that the process of design proceeds in steady straight lines forward to success. Solving one problem occasionally creates others. In the case of the DC24, eliminating the wheels served to increase maneuverability, but also eliminated the base that kept the upright standing when not in use.
As it did elsewhere in the product’s design, Dyson tested solutions to address the challenge. “We came up with a collapsible undercarriage, where the support wheels are only engaged when at rest,” said Dyson. “Ultimately, problems are solved through good design.”