James Dyson is a peculiarly British sort of hero – a billionaire who pushed the boundaries of design with one of the most prosaic household objects there is: the vacuum cleaner.
He spent five years in his garage, supported by his wife, an art teacher, trying to perfect the technology that went into the cyclone vacuum that was his breakthrough success in the early 90s. (Apparently, he made more than 5000 prototypes.) He’s gone on, not only to reinvent the humble vacuum cleaner a few times over – check out his Cyclone V10 stick vacuum cleaner if you want a sense of what a revolution in domestic equipment really looks like – and made hairdryers, bladeless fans, air purifiers and the like.
But the interesting things is that, while painstakingly perfecting the technology that went into these mundane pieces of equipment, he’s actually invented some incredibly efficient technologies that are among the best of their kind: electric motors that can spin at 10 times the speed of jet engines, machine learning technology (necessary to control the spin of a motor at that speed), artificial intelligence and panoramic camera technology (for his robot vacuum), automated manufacture, airflow technology and, perhaps most importantly, long-lasting rechargeable batteries.
While focussing on excellence, he, by design or by chance, assembled an array of technologies that have allowed him to join one of the greatest technological and design revolutions of our time: in 2017 Dyson announced that his next major project would not be a fan or a vacuum cleaner, but an electric car.
Credit: All images: Dyson.co.uk