James Dyson Interview: A Mac Man With A Bladeless Fan

Sir James Dyson is more than a guy who makes unusually interesting vacuums. He makes unusually interesting fans, too! We got a (very brief) chance to talk to the man about his tech allegiances, his design philosophy, and his dreams.

In all seriousness, Dyson's legacy is about more than a few home appliances — though they're no doubt impressive. He's a brilliant designer and inventor in an industry starved for brilliant designers and inventors; he's got a clear enthusiasm for what he does, and he's become a sort of evangelist for engineering and inventing; also he's a nerd. I had, like, three minutes with the man, but managed to blurt out a couple of questions.

We started on tech:

Giz: PC or Mac?

Sir James: (Emphatically) Mac! Since 1984. I bought the first Macintosh.

Giz: What kind of phone do you carry?

Sir James: Well, I have a BlackBerry and an iPhone.

Giz: Are there any unlikely companies or designers that you see doing really interesting stuff right now?

Sir James: There's my son, who does lights where he varies the angle of the light in quite an interesting manner.

Giz: So they're not lasers?

Sir James: No, they're regular lights. They're floor lights where the shade goes up and down to create a wide or narrow beam. There are wall and ceiling lights which have barn doors as a shade; you get an amazing effect on the wall. I don't know if nepotism is allowed on Gizmodo. [Ed. note: It is! So here's how they work:]

We also run a student competition around the world, and there are some really interesting ideas that come out of that.

Giz: You're fond of removing requisite parts from things—bags from vacuums, blades from fans—is there any particular part in another device that you just want to get rid of?

Sir James: Well, I'm sure there will be, but I don't think we should talk about it now. But yes, it is quite a nice approach to minimalism, removing things — well, removing things that cause problems; that's the point.

Giz: Have you thought about directing your talents away from domestic inventions, and toward something more altruistic? Do you have any projects or dreams outside the world of Dyson?

Sir James: (Laughs) I'd like to do a better vacuum cleaner, but there's all sorts of things I want to do. We're very interested in encouraging people to get into design. In the West, we're training far too few engineers and scientists. Schoolchildren love science and love technology, but somehow their parents, teachers and society tells them that other things are going to be far more interesting, so I'm on a bit of a mission to try and change that.

And as quickly as he stepped into my mic range, he stepped back out. Later, James!

You can read Mark's review on Dyson's $US300 bladeless Air Multiplier fan here, as well as the rest of our Dyson coverage.