James Dyson on Engineering Designers

Dyson Quote

An interesting article by John Seabrook in the occasional “Annals of Invention” column of The New Yorker just now with James Dyson — the guy who made vacuum cleaners suck better.

I captured this above while reading it on a short flight up to San Jose last weekend, afraid that I might not come back with the magazine and not wanting to get all messy and tear it up and then thinking that if I had the image, it’d compel me to jot it on the blog rather than squirrel it away in a drawer somewhere.

This is what he says:

..he said, “I think the main thing is that our products look like what they do — the engineering leads the design.” He explained that at Dyson there is no division between the engineers and the designers, such as exists in the automobile industry, for example. “We don’t have industrial designers. All our engineers are designers and all our designers are engineers. When you separate the two, you get the designers doing things for marketing purposes rather than functional reasons.”

Why do I blog this? The point of the relationship amongst engineering and design is something I’m quite interested in — that there should be some intense entanglements between the two roles and certainly not separated, but in constant dialogue. For instance — engineers should be better at telling the stories of their ideas and embedding them into the situations and practices of normal humans’ lives. Designers would do better design if they internalized the instrumental aspects of their craft rather than the gratuitous and the surface features. I had only clipped the part of this quote that started with “Dyson there is no division between the engineers and designers..” so I only now saw in the digital edition of the magazine that he says — “the engineering leads the design.” and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that. I don’t think one should lead the other, although I do think that engineering has so much power and influence and hubris that it should try to humble itself and develop some really good listening skills and not expect that — just because you can think of something and it’s clever that it should be done like, for example Augmented Reality. ((Doorknobs looking for houses to fit on.))

This is a good read if you’re interested in these sorts of things. I think James Dyson has done a lot to put “wheels on luggage” with simple, left-field innovations, making things a little better than they are.

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Design Fiction in the Science Gallery

From Bruce’s Beyond the Beyond: Design Fiction in the Science Gallery: “

*Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby carry on for over an hour about their practice of ‘critical design.’ What a class act these two are: like Robert Louis Stephenson at the monster-movie festival.

*If you’re coming in late to the concept of ‘design fiction,’ here’s the takeaway: Dunne and Raby mock-up some of the most provocative, edgy, unsettling gizmos in the world. They do this by modelling social relationships, emotional interactions and the political implications of objects and services, rather than the objects and services per se. So they do indeed create ‘fictions,’ in that Dunne and Raby designs are poetic, objective-correlative expressions of unstable social situations. These objects are ‘fictions’ about how we live — they perform much like Anthony Trollope’s 1875 social satire novel ‘The Way We Live Now’ once performed.

*Somewhere over the cultural horizon, there might be a modern paranormal-romance flick where all the set design and props are done by Dunne and Raby. That film would be a very Casablanca of the contemporary crisis.


(’Only Paul seems to know or care whether the railroad actually exists.’ Trollope’s railroad in THE WAY WE LIVE NOW is a steampunk design-fiction.)

(Via Beyond The Beyond.)

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The Valley and The Sky, Sascha Pohflepp’s RCA dissertation, just now released into the wild’s of the networked jungle. A dissertation about California’s technology culture between idealism, business and futures for design. Submitted to Critical Historical Studies at the Royal College of Art in October 2008.

Congratulations Sascha!

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