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2005 Best in Category: Floor Care Electrics

Bissell Homecare

Perfect Sweep Turbo

When you look at the Bissell Perfect Sweep Turbo, the winner in Floor Care Electrics at the 2005 Housewares Design Competition, your first impression of the product’s sleek body design might bring to mind images of a racecar. That’s not an accident.

“The automotive industry was a huge point of reference for us,” said Doug Medema, product designer with Bissell. “If you look at the design it has oversize rear wheels. It has fender flares up where the front wheels are supposed to be. It has brush roll that almost becomes another set of wheels. If you look at the true rear wheels on the sweeper they look a lot like the types of wheels you’ll see on some European cars.”

The automotive influence provides subtle design cues to the consumer that this is a product that will move quickly, cleanly and smoothly throughout the home, cornering around furniture to run down dirt wherever it hides.

Aesthetics play an important role in the design of floor care products, which in today’s retail environment must rely on nothing more than they’re own look and packaging, not only to catch the consumer’s eye, but to convey information critical to the purchase decision.

“You want that ‘wow’ factor at shelf level; that cool factor,” said Medema. “It appeals to that little kid in you. Let’s face it, a vacuum cleaner, a sweeper; they’re not glamorous, they’re tools. But just because they’re tools doesn’t mean you can’t get some basic pleasure out of them.”

It’s not enough though to design a product that just looks good. Functionality, particularly in a cleaning product, is critical. In the case of the Perfect Sweep Turbo, function was particularly important, as this is a product category that has been around a long time— Bissell’s first product more than 125 years ago was a carpet sweeper—and consumers aren’t going to respond to something that doesn’t deliver.

One of the key issues, and one of the big challenges, in Bissell’s Perfect Sweep Turbo development was the design of the unit’s side brushes.

“We knew that would be one of our main challenges, Medema said, “Our research showed us that this was a feature that could be a consumer delight.”

The challenge, he noted, was navigating the “mine field” of intellectual property rights by companies that already have versions of the feature on their own sweepers. Another challenge centered on powering the brushes, and doing it within the confines of the Perfect Sweeper’s low profile.

“The way our engineers were able to do it, the brushes turn one direction when you go forward, and in the opposite direction when you go back,” said Medema. He likened the function to a street sweeper, which pulls dirt and debris out of the gutter and tosses it in the path of the main sweeper.

The result, he said, is a product that not only looks like a high-end sports car, but one that performs like one too.

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