Dyson is a wildly successful company that, in my opinion, does not "get" design. By the company's own definition of design, they'd say otherwise: Their products have a strong visual identity, feature cutting-edge technological innovations, offer high performance and have an aesthetic that is emulated by competitors. Where they fall short, in my opinion, is by being an engineering-led company that focuses aesthetics and numerical metrics at the expense of UX.
That means, at least in my own experience with Dyson stick vacs, that they require the user adjust to the product rather than the other way around. The charging docks are awkward and space-consuming. The accessories holder that clings to the shaft tends to slide up and down as you attempt to remove or attach the accessories they hold. The connection points for said accessories are robust, but require precise alignment that often involves two hands. While the motors are strong, the triggers are flimsy and failure-prone, requiring time-consuming DIY replacement. The bold colors and shiny finish of the vacuum, and the unhideable nature of the charging dock, means that they visually draw attention to themselves, as if a cleaning tool deserves a dominant role in the aesthetic of a living space.
Dyson's new robot vacuum exemplifies what I consider to be the brand's design failings. Starting with the way it's represented, which reveals what the company prizes. Examples:
An oversized visual representation of the object dominating the room, with magic green lines demonstrating technological prowess:
Images highlighting internal technological features, as if we need verification that the device is sophisticated or are seeking evidence of these specific components:
Meaningless-to-laypeople tech stats, complete with acronym, jargon and pointless numbers:
"Six times the suction of any other."
"Engineered with unique Dyson Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM) technology, the Dyson 360 Vis Nav™ has a 360-degree vision system which knows where it has been, sees where to clean, and is intelligent enough to respond to dust sensed in the home and create dust maps of your home."
"The high-level processor thinks and adapts, collecting data from sensors to pinpoint its position within 71mm."
"26 sensors on the robot performs specific tasks, including dust detection, obstacle avoidance and detecting walls to clean right to the edge."
"Armed with a dual link suspension system, the Dyson 360 Vis Nav™ can climb up to 21mm."
Now look at the charging dock. Even in this still from the set-up video, where Dyson can presumably build whatever kind of residential set they'd like, we can see that the rear surface of the dock does not jive with the baseboard molding common in most homes:
The dock's jutting vertical surface prominently features two rather ugly fiducial markers (those checkered boxes), which the robot needs as a locating reference:
Also telling: At press time, Dyson's YouTube channel featured 17 videos about the robot vacuum—and not a single one is a demonstration of what the vacuum actually does. Instead they're videos about how to fix the robot's glitches, manage its technological features or perform maintenance on it.
The emphasis is on what the user has to do, not what the product does for the user.
Despite all of that, I'm sure the robot vac—which will reportedly cost roughly $1,600—will be a roaring success. While I feel that Dyson misses the point on design, few people in the world care that a design blogger thinks a successful company misses the point on design. Have a look at Dyson's revenue increases over the past 12 years:
That £6.5 billion pounds that they did last year translates to USD $8 billion. It would appear that good design, at least the way I'm defining it, doesn't matter much to consumers. And with numbers like that, it's no wonder it doesn't matter much to Dyson.
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Two things I like to remind myself:
This article illustrates what is wrong with designers and UX people for the past years. The supposedly "meaningless statements" like "six times the suction power" are exactly the kind of statements I'm looking for when deciding to buy a product. It's a shame that simple concepts like this somehow apparently are not considered too complex for the average person. Dyson's YouTube channel had exactly what I expect: quick how-to guides to solve the inevitable problems that can and will happen with a mechanical device. No one goes to the manufacturers YouTube channel to specifically look for marketing. The only real problem with Dyson is that their stuff is expensive, since they need to fund so many failed bets as a company. But yeah, the fact that the grow a lot shows that there's still space for companies that try to sell products with hard facts vs Apple-like fluffy marketing, smoke and mirrors. By the way, all this supposed care about UX and your comment box doesn't even work on Android phones: shows exactly on which type of world you live in. Twitter login also doesn't work and neither does Facebook login.
Agree with the article. I also noted that the Dyson Sales Team made the rounds at major airport restrooms only to be shut down by the pandemic. The sleek, stainless hand dryers started fine but in time it leaves a mess on the wall l& floor next to the unit leaving it to the cleaner to deal with until the next remodel. Their larger “NSF” hand dryer already has gross crud in the crevices.
I have the previous Heurist 360 and it is a wonderful device, in fact I signed up to buy this new model yesterday. ! also have 2 other Dyson uprights and a hand vacuum, apart from a few quirks, they are all excellent at what they do, and considering James Dyson has only repurposed a saw mill sawdust extractor system and not invented anything, he did it before anyone else, and now they all try to copy him. Great customer service, my robot cleaner froze once, I made a call and a brand new one arrived within 24 hours, free! What is the alternative? Samsung have had a go, and Shark, but they are not on the same level, Maybe as I am an engineer, I recognise what they are trying to achieve, and I can understand how thick people and housewives may get baffled occasionally as you do need product knowledge to use the cleaners properly. I would like to see less plastic and more aluminium or die cast parts to give the impression of being a bit more sturdy.
An awful advertisement for design. There elevated position is undeserved in my opinion. They are still riding on the coat tales of one interesting idea! Arrogance and greed seem to be at the core of this business.
I have a dyson vacuum and it's one of the most oddly designed objects I"ve ever used.
I knew I didn't like my Dyson vacuum. It was loud, didn't work all that great, had horrible tool and power cable management and pieced together (and just as easily came apart) like some sort of Playskool toy. I was actually relieved when I dumped it for a Miele model. Vacuuming was still a chore, but less so. It just works, very well at that. Clearly the designers put a lot of effort into making it easy to use and threw in plenty of nice touches - retractable cords, built in tool storage and big push buttons control all the functions. That's good design.
I totally agree with the article, so many niggles and issues I've experienced over the years with Dyson products and never really put them down to UX, which they clearly are.