It’s really no surprise that the company that raised the vacuum from a lowly appliance to a lustworthy gadget puts a strong focus on design. But a recent visit to Dyson’s US headquarters revealed that design ethos extends all the way down to the pens used around the office.
When it comes to office supplies, most companies are content to just budget for the classic plastic BIC pen. And when profits are soaring, maybe even a custom version featuring its logo or slogan silk-screened on the side. But for the company that went through 5127 prototypes when designing its first vacuum cleaner, a plastic ballpoint pen just didn’t reflect Dyson’s commitment to design and engineering.
So over the span of a few months, 20 of Dyson’s own engineers — including James Dyson himself — spent their weeknights and weekends designing a suitable replacement from the ground up. For any other company, that might sound like overkill — but not for the company that’s spent the past couple of decades striving to perfect the vacuum.
Fifty prototypes later, the Dyson Biro (which is actually the technical term for a ballpoint pen) is as streamlined and simplified as a pen can be. Conventional pens’ ergonomic grips and hexagonal housings are replaced with a long, simple cylinder made from brushed stainless steel so that it’s both durable, and comfortable, to hold. And to those crying foul that a cylindrical pen can’t be perfect because it can easily roll of your desk, the design of the Dyson Biro’s clip actually keeps more weight on one side so it resists rolling.
In fact, more thought and design went into the pen’s laser-engraved clip than the rest of the pen. It almost appears to be carved out of the Dyson Biro’s stainless steel body, which helps maintain the pen’s perfectly cylindrical shape. And the clip’s laser edge has been engineered with the perfect gap, allowing the pen to be easily clipped into a shirt pocket, or onto a stack of papers, whether it’s extended or retracted.
Even the pen’s extending tip will make design nerds giddy. The replaceable ballpoint ink cartridge is housed in a smaller stainless steel tube that extends from the business end of the Dyson Biro as you click the clip on the other end.
Retractable ballpoint pens are already incredibly satisfying to repeatedly click (much to the chagrin of your co-workers) but the Dyson Biro takes that one step further as the ballpoint tip looks like a mortar shell leaving the barrel of a cannon as it’s extended.
And because the whole thing is made of stainless steel and engineered to last much longer than a plastic BIC ever will, you can spend countless hours clicking away without having to worry about breaking it or having to sneak into the supply closet for a replacement.
The Biro is not only a beautiful object to play around with, though, it’s also a smart marketing tool. When someone is handed one of these pens, be they a corporate partner, a supplier, or even a potential vendor, it plants the message that if Dyson spends this much time and effort designing a pen, imagine what must go into the creation of a $US500 vacuum.
The pen also serves as a tiny Dyson billboard that few who get their hands on one will ever dare to lose. You know how you always hold onto those fancy white plastic bags from the Apple store? Dyson has made sure, thanks to its engineering prowess, that if you’re ever lucky enough to come across one of these pens, there’s little chance you’ll go back to using a BIC ever again.