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The Dyson G-Force – “Cute Japan”

March 5, 2017

The G-Force Vacuum Cleaner was designed in 1983 by James Dyson and was first manufactured by Japanese manufacturer APEX in 1986. Dyson was frustrated by his current vacuum, and, inspired by his work creating an industrial cyclone tower which used centrifugal force to separate particles – he set about creating the first bagless vacuum cleaner using “Dual Cyclone” separation technology. (Dyson.co.uk, 2017)

It was necessary to launch in Japan. No UK companies were interested in manufacturing it, partly as it would disturb the market for paper vacuum cleaner bags. Despite costing the equivalent of £2000 it was a massive success in the technology loving country and quickly became a status symbol. Dyson eventually used the royalties from this product to set up the Dyson company and manufacture under his own name. (Dyson.co.uk, 2017)

It is interesting to see Dysons work featured in the Japanese collection, considering he does not have Japanese heritage, and the Dyson company is known as a great British brand. The point is to show how the designer adapted his product for the Japanese market. Its unique colour palette was developed specifically for Japan as ‘cuteness’ had been a popular aesthetic for consumers since the 1970’s. Though we cannot be sure to what extent the colour helped to create the product’s success, the museum suggests that it is a very crucial element by placing the vacuum in the same cabinet as other ‘cute’ objects such as a Hello Kitty electronics and a Lolita dress. By doing this the museum places the focus on the aesthetic appeal of the hoover and how the Japanese market reacted to it above the vacuums revolutionary technology. I feel that this really under appreciates the innovation required to make this vacuum. Dyson went through 5,127 prototypes before perfecting the design, yet all we see is another cute pink object. (Dyson.co.uk, 2017)

The museum as an institution is showing that it places more importance on cultural context and a timeline of history rather than design innovation. Dyson has made so much technological progress it could have its own cabinet, yet it is reduced to one object which could easily be dismissed as it blends into its surroundings.

The rest of the Japanese collection focuses mainly on traditional Japanese style and objects, such as ancient kimonos, weapons and furniture, though there are also sections showcasing sleek modern Japanese design, such as mobile phones and luxury handbags. Whilst I appreciate that the museum has dedicated a section to an element of Japanese pop culture, overall it still portrays Japan from a very stereotypical western perspective. Nothing in the gallery challenged perceptions of Japan as a country of kimonos, Hello Kitty and fancy technology – if anything it encouraged them. Given the V & A’ s colonial past this is not surprising. But instead of filling a room with object that reinforces the general publics ideas of Japan – maybe it should try expose them to something new.

Bibliography

Dyson.co.uk. (2017). About Dyson. [online] Available at: https://www.dyson.co.uk/community/aboutdyson.aspx [Accessed 5 Mar. 2017].

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