More Power – the Inspiration for Dyson® Vacuums

The third in our series on Genderblend™ design focuses on how the Dyson vacuum, and a whole product category that was traditionally female, was re-invented to appeal to men.

James Dyson met with company after company, and all rejected his concept, even though his technology worked better. They were too afraid to risk losing any share of the $500 million replacement bag market, rationalizing that their strong female consumer base would not like emptying a dirty, messy vacuum canister. Eventually James Dyson persevered, launching his own company in 1993. Within 22 months of its introduction in the United Kingdom, the Dyson became the best-selling vacuum to both men and women.

Dyson Vaccuum – Male Power Tool

More Power – Dyson focused on features and technology to create a better product. He solved a major problem women faced with bag-style vacuums: they only demonstrated maximum suction when a bag was empty. As the bag filled with even a small amount of dust, the suction diminished, reducing the machine’s effectiveness and creating the necessity of either more frequent vacuuming, or, longer vacuuming time to achieve a thorough cleaning. This problem inspired Dyson to develop technology that ensures  constant maximum suction to pick up more dirt and ultimately lead to cleaner floors faster. With the entrance of the Dyson vacuum, consumers face a tradeoff – bag vacuums with easy-to-use disposable bags, but less suction and less efficient cleaning (i.e. more time), versus better suction power, more efficient cleaning (i.e. less time) and a slightly messy canister.  More power and greater efficiency win.

Form & Function – Dyson’s background was Industrial Design and art, not engineering. So he believed the vacuum should not only perform better (improved function), but should make a visual statement (improved form). Perhaps because he is a man, or just to celebrate the new technology of cyclonic filters, he designed his product  to resemble a DeWalt or Stanley power tool rather than a traditional vacuum  (i.e. a “woman’s” tool). Not only did this make vacuuming more acceptable to men, it made it exciting!

Real Men Vacuum – Although Dyson may not have been thinking specifically of growing a male consumer base, by creating a cleaning power tool, he made it macho to vacuum. In  the process he also gave women a better functioning product that does more of what they want. Besides, you can never go wrong fulfilling a woman’s fantasy…a guy who cleans!

Next up in our Genderblend™ Design Series, how Weber Grills missed the mark with women and men in the design of gas grills.

About Hazz Design: Graduates of Rhode Island School of Design, Tracy and Tom have been working and designing together for most of their two- decade marriage. Their shared vision that good design should never cost more, that there is always a solution, and that one- plus-one can have an exponential result has earned them career expanding projects, multiple design awards, more than two dozen patents, two children and a finely tuned relationship.

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