“I thought it would take me about six months. In fact it took me 4.5 years and I built 5,127 prototypes until I got it right. That sounds tedious. In fact it was absolutely fascinating. I mean each failure, the 5,126 failures taught me so much. Successes teach you nothing. Failures teach you everything. Making mistakes is the most important thing you can do.” – James Dyson
James is one of the coolest inventor, design genius, and entrepreneur that I know of. I saw James’ fascinating, fun to read and insightful book “Against the Odds: An Autobiography” sitting rather sadly in the discount bin of Chapters bookstore in 2003 and I immediately love it. James’ book was an absolue eyes opener for me and I have learned so much from him. He is not only a genius inventor (his products are innovative and benchmark setting), he is also a great entrepreneur (he built his business from the ground up to a multi-billion dollar company in the UK and around the world).
By the way, James also fought (costing $10 million) and won a really tough patent infringement battle against Hoover (dusts finally settling 7 years later)! That was not a fun exercise for James to say the least. (discussed at around 32:40 of the video.)
By the way, Jonathan Ive, Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple Computer, godfather of iMac and iPod, saw Dyson’s vacuum cleaner when it first came out and he loved it so much that he immediately bought one for himself and one for Steve Jobs. And then, this is the fun part — the iMac came out *after* the Dyson vacuum cleaner!! But because of the popularity of iMac, most people think that Dyson copied iMac when it is really the other way around. (smile)
By chance, I came across this talk “The Art of Engineering” given by James at MIT on April 26, 2006. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do. (Note: The whole talk is great but James started to talk about his wonderful vacuum cleaner at around the 20 minutes mark.)
Note: Is there such a thing as “by chance”? I strongly believe that “Chance Favors the Prepared Mind” . So if you are prepared and ready to “see or find” things, then you will see and find really cool lectures like James’ talk and you will treasure it. Just my 2 cents.
P.S. Here is a list of US patents hold by James. As I may have discussed previously, patent is a great tool to learn about things. They are very technical (an instruction set to build the thing for people knowledgeable in the field) but the patents are also required by patent laws (“BEST MODE AND PREFERRED EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION””) to give you a pretty good road map. Happy learning.
Dec 30th 2007 Update: I’ve added a new entry, “Mr. James Dyson, Tear Down This Wall!” to add my latest thinking on the Dyson Vacuum.
Dec 2nd 2019 Update: I’ve fixed the broken video link to Dyson’s MIT talk, luckily the video is still on MIT’s site. BTW, here is a news update re the above mentioned Jonathan Ive, “Jony Ive has left Apple” (The Verge, 2019 Nov 28).
[…] I’ve previously blogged about the most insightful and creative inventor James Dyson. Here is a new article by him, “Industry will thrive if we focus on good design“. Here is an excerpt, [K: emphasis mine] For British design to prosper, we need to think long term. We can’t expect miracles; design is a slow (often painfully so) process of trial and error. “Eureka” moments are few and far between. It took 5127 prototypes before I produced the first vacuum cleaner that didn’t clog or lose suction. Each was a smaller piece in a larger design puzzle. It takes time, patience and money to bring innovation to life. […]
The more I read about Dyson the more I like him. He seems like a practical guy. Not to compare, but Dean Kamen (of Segway fame) seems a bit more “out there” working wild and crazy things vs. Dyson’s more practical approach. I’ve recently blogged on the Dyson vacuum and my view as a product manager on why they are doing well.
James and Dean work in different space so I guess it is difficult to decide which is “better” if there is such a thing.
[…] in my head. In case you don’t know, James Dyson is the inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner. It took Dyson 4.5 years and 5,127 prototypes until he got his vacuum cleaner right. It fascinates me to see this Dragons’ Den entrepreneur’s approach in contrast with the […]
Stay far away from Dyson
Not only was I unhappy with this vacuum from day one, I later found customer support not only to be non-responsive, but to lie to me.
This has no light, is to high to go under most furniture most vacuums glide under and has no release from the upright position. You need to place a foot off balance at the front edge and lower the handle. From day one, mine had a “catch” that sometimes did not allow it to lower the handle.
After a few years, the entire housing cracked in two. Emailed Dyson and no response. Several times.
After a week, I called. Spoke with Elizabeth Williams and I wanted to send a picture as this is most definitely a manufacturing defect. She gave me an email address. Never got a reply even after emailing a half dozen times.
Called again and got Martin Rubio. Very nice guy who looked at the picture, said he had never seen anything like this and put me under 7 day warranty to get it fixed and told me exactly who to take it to some 40 miles away. I did.
Several weeks later the repair place called to say it was ready, but Dyson would not honor the warranty. I called Martin who was now less than responsive. He claims his manager overruled him after telling me this would be fixed under warranty. Could do nothing for me even after making a commitment.
So now off to find out how much this will cost me.
Bad product, worse company. My advice, buy something else.
My fiance kept going on and on about Dyson’s until I finally caved and we bought one. It’s brilliant and I love it. James Dyson is my hero.
Where are you based? UK, US, or Canada, etc.?
Sounds like you had some real bad experience. Yours is the first one that I’ve heard about the housing cracked into two. That would suck. And I am surprised and disappointed if Dyson service had no responses to your problem. Do you have a picture of the cracked Dyson posted online? I think Dyson is great but I think it is important to let the problems to be known too.
I am more shocked that the second service rep first told you the fix will be covered under warranty and then told you his decision has been overruled.
Can you please update us on what has happened since you posted your comment? I am interested enough to follow up with you. And may be with Dyson directly, if I can get your case details. Please email me.
Good to hear you have a wonderful experience with your Dyson.
“Successes teach you nothing. Failures teach you everything. Making mistakes is the most important thing you can do”
Very wise quote.
I absolutely love that quote and believe it. “Successes teach you nothing. Failures teach you everything. Making mistakes is the most important thing you can do.”
i have invented a solar air dryer which is totaly self sustaining invest ni paid for the patent surch and it looks promising but i have had a run of bad luck and cant afford to do anything with it iwould rather you have it for nothing than any wone else come out with it what email addres would you like me to send it to
Thanks for the kind thought of offering your idea or patent to me for free but I have to politely refuse. You are passionate about your idea and I am not.
Many inventors don’t realize how much work is involved in bring an idea (or even a patented idea) to market and make it a success. A great patented idea is like getting a number to compete in the Boston marathon, the inventor/entrepreneur still has to run it, finish it, and try to win it. :)
I have my marathon to run and to try to win and I wish you the best of luck in yours.
P.S. I highly recommend you read James Dyson’s autobiography, there are much to learn from James’ successes and failures.
i am working at malaysian dyson,under vs technician.
in working environment got many different wit vs technician and dyson technician or engineers.Dont hv any allowance for vs technician,and working hours,uniforms,no any benefit..please consider this report,(exspecialy at motor test department)
i hope MR.JAMES DYSON will consider this report as soon as posible,
Thanks for sharing your comments here. I will take your complain as it is as I have no way to verify or check.
International trade is a complex topic but rest assure, when there are trade and when the market is competitive (i.e. when other factories or companies are setting up shops at your country) then the pay, hours, working conditions tends to get better as time goes by.
Wishing you the best of luck.
Had same problem..Housing cracked…Warranty repair company said not under warranty must be abuse…but also said that Dyson hits these things with hammers..That really angered me…I would never “abuse” a vacuum that I paid over 300 dollars for..that was supposed to be the best and stood by there name and had a 5 year warranty….I will take my chances with a company that does not have such a warranty…but will stand by there product…totally disatisfied!! Could someone tell me how you could “abuse” a vacuum??
[…] Incidentally, the inventiveness in Trevor actually reminds me a little bit (just a little bit) of James Dyson. […]
[…] bladeless fan James Dyson is one of my most admired inventor and entrepreneur. Here is an article from Guardian about his […]
Well The Dyson Vacume has lasted me four years and still counting. It was hard to pay that much money, But worth every penny and save on bags for the earth.
It has been knocked over slammed on the floor many times. It is built like a little Tike Toys. Our family is very ruff on things, I would not let anyone touch it the first year, My husband breaks everything. It took me awhile to talk him into buying the vacume. My daughter is getting this one when she leaves the nest.
I love the vacume and will buy another in the future.
When I saw Mr. Dyson on tv many years ago, I saw a glimmer in his eyes and a proud look in his face. That was one of the reasons I bought it. I am glad he made it threw his invention and stuck with it.
Does anyone know his email? I had a question for him?
I finally took time to try to contact him, I have been wanting to for 2 years. Strange question, buisness related.
Good to hear your positive experience with your Dyson.
As far as I know and was able to determine, James doesn’t have a public email address posted anywhere on the web.
Now, may I suggest you Google the UK headquarters physical address of Dyson and send a good old snail mail to James in the regular post. To add a special touch, may I suggest a clear hand-written and brief letter.
Please share with us if you get any reply.
P.S. Your question reminded me that I should find an occasion to interview James if I can. May be when his bladeless fan (the Dyson Air Multiplier) comes to Canada,
The normal vacuum cleaner has a problem specially his vacuum cleaner(Mr james dyson).for example when we want to collect rubbish on the blanket,the vacuum cleaner vacuum rubbish and blanket.It is a big problem in vacuum cleaners.so we need a intelligent vacuum cleaner.I’m an inventor and I made intelligent vacuum cleaner and I don’t know how I can speak with Mr Dyson.can anybody help me?
Not sure what problem your intelligent vacuum cleaner is trying to solve.
I can’t help anyway.
I purchased a Dyson DC14 4 years ago. I had previously owned a 67.00 Hoover which lasted more than 15 years. The Hoover finally quit working and based on my perception, I guess off commercials, I decided to spend the money on a Dyson. We purchased it at Costco for 400.00 thinking it would be a 20 year investment. The vacuum was okay, but nothing much better than the hoover I paid a lot less money for. Well about 1 month ago it was on the landing of our staircase and it tipped over and fell down the stairs, may 10 or so. The plastic piece broke on the back. My wife called Dyson and asked how to get the unit repaired, as it was within the 5 year warranty period. She was advised to take it to a repair center. The repair center quoted 240.00 to repair it, as the crack was on the main body. I went in to the repair center and talked to the repairman. I told him it advertised a 5 year warranty, he said that not all warranties are the same. Dyson’s warranty only covers workmanship. He said he encountered this situation a lot where people come in thinking the vacuum is covered under a warranty and find out the fine print only covered workmanship.
I called Dyson myself and explained my frustration with the durability of the vacuum as well as the expense in repairing it. He basically told me it was not covered by the warranty.
The problem I have with Dyson is they price their vacuums high, giving the consumer the impression it is a high end unit. I have since discovered this is a cheap mostly plastic vacuum made in China. You can’t change the belt for $10, you have to change the assembly for $40-$50. If something breaks, Dyson gouges you for the replacement parts. And their customer service was non existent.
All I can say is my $67 Hoover lasted 4 times as long and cost 65% less.
I wouldn’t buy another Dyson or recommend anyone else buy one either.
Seems like you had some bad experience. When I can find some time, I will call up Dyson’s services and investigate a little and see what their warranty is like.
Dyson is the worst vacuum cleaner ever by far:
expensive, heavy, loses its sucking power in time, in brittles, terrible control panel, anti-ergonomic everywhere you see it…and the list goes on and on
How do I know? ’cause I waz fool enuff to buy one couple years ago…NEVER AGAIN, I SWEAR IT!
Sorry to hear of your experience. Do you know what caused your Dyson to lose suction power? Did you call Dyson’s warranty services to get yours fixed?
I decided to spend sometime to investigate a little by calling Dyson Canada to get some answers. You can follow my updates here,