Creating problems (to solve them), with ex-Dyson designer Lucy Halpin

By Louise Cooper | 1 Comment

“Good design has to solve a problem.”
- Sir James Dyson


Last Friday, we welcomed the first of our iQ Labs guest speakers, Lucy Halpin. A former Dyson Industrial Designer, Lucy discussed the Dyson philosophy: if something doesn’t work, make it better. How? With frustration, perseverance and the willingness to fail.

It was refreshing to hear that Dyson inventions don’t just pop out of James Dyson’s head pre-formed. Product development at Dyson is a cycle of prototyping, testing, and failing. This openness to failure is embedded in the company’s culture.

Getting inspiration from frustration

After her talk, Lucy led a brainstorming session that used frustration as a way to generate ideas.

We tapped into our emotions, discussing how the room we were sitting in made us feel. Forgetting about the constraints of reality, we started to imagine the unimaginable. Wouldn’t it be great if we could peel back the ceiling on a hot day? If the floor could transform into cushions? If the walls could do more than serve as simple dividers?

Choosing the wall as our focus, we brainstormed ways to make it better. Our solution? A wall of glass that fills with colour at the flick of a switch. One that can become reflective like a mirror or turn opaque when privacy is needed.

We started thinking about other applications for this idea. How about reflective glass for TV screens? So if the TV above your fireplace is not in use, it can serve as a mirror. Or an app that turns your computer screen opaque if there are prying eyes around?

It’s surprising how many ideas can come out of this simple brainstorming technique.

Are there things that really frustrate you? Well don’t settle for something that can be done better. Frustration can be the source of truly useful design solutions. Just don’t be afraid to fail.


One response to “Creating problems (to solve them), with ex-Dyson designer Lucy Halpin

  1. Very inspiring talk. For me it revived Edison’s approach to problem solving ‘I didn’t fail. I just found 2000 ways not to make a lightbulb’. Interesting to learn that most successful companies still apply the same processes.

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