"Anger and frustration are great starting points" for product design, James Dyson, inventor of the eponymous vacuum cleaner, told Fast Company’s Chuck Salter in an interview last spring. At the time, Dyson, who’s famously obsessed with engineering
products that solve problems and work better than existing solutions, was railing about the nastiness of bathroom hand driers. He used his disgust at the germy, inefficient gizmos to invent a better dryer, the Airblade.
That’s vintage Dyson, a guy who roams the earth seeing problems that need solutions.
Dyson’s had such a blast cooking up cool stuff that he’s keen to share the fun. So each year, for the past three, he’s sponsored an annual contest, "Eye for Why," challenging students to come up with ideas for innovative products. Last year, the winner was a jacket that allowed a wearer to sleep while commuting (hopefully, not while driving) .
The first place winner will receive $5,000, and an all expenses-paid trip to New York (along with his or her advisor) for a gala awards ceremony. Even the student’s advisor earns a little green —- $2,000, plus two nights in the city.
This year, for the first time, students will be able to engage with each other via the "Eye for Why" community site at www.dyson.com/designaward. Entries for this year’s contest are due by February 9.
Those winners will automatically be entered in the James Dyson Award, a global contest, whose winner will have a chance to interact with the Dyson R&D team in the U.K. Since 2006, Dyson has funded that crew to the tune of $100M; the results are pretty stunning. Dyson files, on average, one patent per day. Hanging with those folks wouldn’t be a bad way for a budding product designer to get a feel for the business.