James Dyson to Talk at Yale, Offer Student Design Workshop

James Dyson with “the Ball,” that steers his vacuum cleaner.

Widely honored design engineer James Dyson, Chairman and Founder of Dyson, will speak at Yale on April 27 and sponsor a four-hour design charrette, or hands-on workshop, for students the following morning.

“Taking Risks and Breaking Rules: The Art of Wrong Thinking,” will be delivered by Dyson at 4 p.m. in Davies Auditorium, 15 Prospect Street. The program, co-sponsored by the Faculty of Engineering and the School of Management is open to the public and will focus on both the business and engineering aspects of product development and Dyson’s design philosophy: “Good design is about how something works, not just how it looks.”

The design charrette for Yale students will be held on April 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Mason Labs, 9 Hillhouse Avenue. Building on the content from Dyson’s talk, Jamie Cameron, New Product Development Engineering Manager, Dyson (USA), will present engineering design tasks for the students to devise creative solutions.

Dyson is popularly known for developing the first cyclonic bagless vacuum cleaner — “the vacuum cleaner that doesn’t lose suction” — that is a market leader in the United States. Although Dyson is now widely recognized as a business and engineering design success, the success was a result of persistence in the face of prevailing business standards as well as good design.

“Dyson is a stunning example of an innovator who managed to independently bring his product idea to market, to establish his product as an industry leader in a short period of time, and to create a sustainable innovation-driven enterprise to build on those initial successes,” said Judith A. Chevalier, the William S. Beinecke Professor of Finance and Economics in the School of Management and co-organizer of the event

In 1978, frustrated with traditional bag vacuum cleaner clogging and inefficiency, Dyson was determined to develop the technology for the first vacuum cleaner with constant suction. It took 15 years of perseverance, and over 5,000 prototypes, to finally launch his first no-loss-of-suction vacuum cleaner. In 1993, the patented Dual Cyclone™ technology shook up a stagnant 100-year-old vacuum cleaner market. Today, Dyson vacuum cleaners are available in 39 countries.

“James has shown that just because a technology is entrenched doesn’t mean that it is the right way or the best way,” said Glenn Weston-Murphy, lecturer in Mechanical engineering and co-organizer of the program. “I hope that we can pass this lesson on to our students — to believe in themselves, to look at problems with a fresh perspective and to question pervasive industries.”

Over a third of Dyson employees are engineers and scientists dedicated to developing technology to make products work better. Housed within the Dyson Research and Development Centre in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, UK, Dyson has almost 1,000 patents and patent applications for over 150 different innovations.

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Media Contact

Janet Rettig Emanuel: janet.emanuel@yale.edu, 203-432-2157