Light Hearted

Jake Dyson takes the family business into new territory.

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Jake Dyson in his London studio.
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For most industrial designers, the thought of joining forces with technology titan Dyson would not spark much of a debate—but when Jake Dyson's lighting studio received such an offer, it warranted quite a bit of deliberation. As son of company founder and legendary inventor Sir James Dyson, Jake wanted any collaboration with the family business to be approached with caution. "I worked at Dyson 12 years ago," he says, "and I left because I felt that I was in a shoebox with a lid on. I really needed to get out there, carve my own path, and prove to myself that I could do something."

This constitutes wall decor for industrial designers.
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So, he set about manufacturing four different products of his own, with a team of only five. "They were banging on my door for five years," he says of Dyson's wooing process, "and I kept resisting." But when the company came knocking again last spring, he finally felt comfortable enough to bring his tiny team into the corporation of thousands. It's certainly been a change of pace. "I'm surrounded by geniuses here—hundreds and hundreds of geniuses," he says. "When you're with that sort of level of talent, you don't stand out," he adds, laughing.

Dyson uses various tools to create prototype parts and evaluate production.

The increased genius quotient, along with the added resources of a larger business, were very attractive to him—but there was, of course, another factor in play. "I'm part of the Dyson family," he explains, "and we need to think of the future of Dyson as a family business. It's a win-win situation in that I can grow what I've been doing for 10 years, the company as a whole benefits, and I get to learn the business in case anything should happen to my father."

The designer hard at work next to one of his groundbreaking LED lights, the CSYS desk lamp.
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Jake realized he wanted to be an industrial designer during a product design class at London's renowned Central Saint Martins, where he was studying. "It was entirely focused on aesthetics and styling," he says, "rather than the guts inside an object. I thought it was completely boring, and not very challenging." So, while his classmates were "making streamlined scooters," Jake decided to make a water-powered generator. The response from the rest of his class? "They thought I was off my head."

One of his suspended lights in action.
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He decided to focus his efforts on lighting—LED technology, specifically. He'd been appalled to see disposable LED light bulbs hit the market, since he knew they were capable of lasting a lifetime. His motivation was simple: "If LEDs are the new energy-efficient form of lighting," he says, "let's just design the best product for them." He decided to tackle the problem the old-fashioned way: "We ripped up a load of laptops that I got off eBay."

The creation of gorgeous, minimalist, cutting-edge lighting requires the use of all sorts of mysterious devices.
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They found that the machines were using cooling fans and heat pipe technology—originally used in satellites—to maintain a working temperature. And so began the process of making lamps that can make an LED bulb last for 154,000 hours. "Our products are designed to last 40 years," Dyson says, proudly, "and no other lighting product is." But, as he points out: if you make something that's going to be around for 30 years, it's got to look timeless. That, according to Dyson, is achieved through transparency. "We don't want to hide," he says. "We want to show the way things work in a product; it becomes fascinating, and that fascination becomes beauty."

Think, design, repeat.

The man radiates an enthusiasm for his work, and it's something he deems key to his success. "I think that doing something you enjoy is the most important thing in life," he says. "There are so many people who are depressed," he notes, quick to add that engineers have a low suicide rate and high job satisfaction. "Although you spend months and months working on something," he says, "when you make it work, it's the most unbelievable rush of satisfaction and self-belief."

Dyson's machine shop, in the basement of his studio.

The company will be introducing a new suspension light at the end of the year with an eye to addressing the needs of both the office and the residence with one product. "I can't tell you what else we're working on," he adds with a hint of sneaky glee. He does offer that he will be paying greater attention to "the internet of things, and the connected products," as well as on "healthy lighting." Whatever terrain he chooses to explore, he aims to retain the same pioneer ethos that drove him to build his own small studio in the first place. "In true Dyson spirit, and in my own spirit," he says, "we solve the problems that others don't solve. We're looking at the future of lighting—it's very, very exciting."

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