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.
Join over 240,000 designers who stay up-to-date with the Core77 newsletter.
Test it out; it only takes a single click to unsubscribe