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Q&A With Sir James Dyson

Filed Under: Living Rooms, Know-How, Living Spaces

How many industrial designers do you know that are also knights? (Or knights that moonlight as revolutionary vacuum designers?) Obviously, Sir James Dyson is one of kind.

James DysonSir James Dyson and his famous small multiple cyclones. Photos: Dyson.

When one of our writers' Dyson vacuum lost its suction, she scheduled an interview with Sir James Dyson himself. But after solving the problem with a patient customer service rep, she ended up using the interview to get a little history on one of the biggest names in cleaning.

DIY Life: Has anyone ever challenged your famous claim that the Dyson never loses suction?

James Dyson: They've tried. When I first started out, no one in the industry would give me the time of day. Bags were their bread and butter. But people want technology that works. This proved a rude awakening to our competitors, who now try to copy our technology.

DIY Life: When you were getting the patent on the first Dyson vacuum, were you required to prove your claim in any way?

James Dyson: The patent process can be long and expensive. Starting Dyson nearly bankrupted me. In order to get a patent, the idea must be unique. You must prove the technology is new. That's the heart of what we do -- engineer technology that is new and better. We now have 1,300 patents on over 300 machines, a far cry from where we started.

DIY Life: There are so many different Dyson models. Does the amount of suction vary from machine to machine?

James Dyson: It is helpful to understand how suction power is measured. Other vacuums measure suction power based on the number of amps in a machine. This is simply the amount of energy something takes in, not what a machine does with that energy. We measure performance by how much our vacuums pick up, and this powerful suction remains constant over time.

DIY Life: I was surprised to hear from the first technician I spoke with that if I wasn't able to clear the blockage on my own, I'd need to bring my vacuum to a Dyson repair shop -- and a suction problem is not covered under warranty.

James Dyson: The machines are designed so that if a blockage does occur, it can be easily removed -- either on your own or with a little coaching. It's not often a machine goes in for repair. In fact, around 85 percent of inquiries can be resolved over the phone or online by our customer care team.

DIY Life: What's the one "dream product" you wish you could figure out a way to invent?

James Dyson: We are always working on new technology. And not just vacuums. Motors are a big part of what we do. Our digital motor took nearly 10 years to make and we have over 60 engineers dedicated to making it faster and more efficient, so our machines can be. The motor powers the Airblade hand dryer and our latest cordless machines, the Digital Slim.

As for me and my Dyson DC14, we're still going strong - and the super suction I'd come to expect is back in action.

By Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien



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