Dyson Appliances

James Dyson, the founder of Dyson Appliances, is a British industrial designer and entrepreneur who studied at the Royal College of Art in London. His early product designs include the Ballbarrow, a wheelbarrow made more maneuverable by substituting a ball for the front wheel. He is best known for the Dual Cyclone line of bagless vacuum cleaners that he designs and manufactures.

Based on his observations that traditional vacuum cleaners become less effective as the pores of their dust bags become clogged with dust, he set about designing a new kind of vacuum cleaner. Dyson’s dual cyclone system uses centrifugal force to separate the heavier dust particles from the air, thereby maintaining a clean airstream and full suction. In 1979, he made an industrial version of the cyclone cleaner for the Ballbarrow factory. It took five years of further development and more than 5,000 discarded prototypes to create the world’s first bagless cyclonic vacuum cleaner, the G-Force, which Dyson patented in 1984. Another nine years were to pass before Dyson began to reap the commercial potential of his invention.

Dyson tried to interest existing vacuum cleaner manufacturers in his patent with little success. He managed to negotiate licenses with a Japanese company and an American one. Production went ahead in Japan, but the American company, Amway, pulled out. Dyson then discovered that Amway was producing a cyclone cleaner, purportedly of its own design. In 1987, he sued Amway for patent infringement, a case that took five years to be settled in Dyson’s favor. During that period, he relied on the income from the Japanese license to meet his legal costs and pay the patent renewal fees. With the court case won, Dyson was able to set up Dyson Appliances at a factory in Wiltshire, in the south of England, to mass-produce his designs.

The Dual Cyclone line, more effective at removing finer dust particles than the G-Force, began with an upright model in 1993, soon followed by a cylinder (canister) version. All Dyson cleaners feature a transparent plastic dust container and cylinder models have a unique “stair hugging” shape. The classic Dyson colors are gray and yellow, but variations have been introduced to differentiate new models—for example, the use of purple casing for a high-efficiency filter. The de Stijl models are a stylistic tribute to the Dutch design movement of that name. Another Dyson first is the Recyclone, the first vacuum cleaner to be made by taking plastic waste from the manufacturing process and recycling it. At the end of the twentieth century, Dyson began working on the development of a robotic vacuum cleaner.

Dyson Appliances quickly achieved great commercial success in Britain, in spite of its products being at the higher end of the price range. In 1996, Dyson sold 400,000 vacuum cleaners, taking cumulative sales income above the £1 billion mark. The company now accounts for half of the British vacuum cleaner market by value. As exports only represent about 15 percent of sales, there is considerable foreign growth potential.