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The Dyson name has become synonymous with innovation and those life-changing vacuums and the man behind the brand is none other than James Dyson. He’s not just the face of the brand in those TV commercials, he’s the Founder and Chief Engineer of a company that now employees a team of 2,000 engineers! It all began back in 1978 when his frustrations mounted with his bagged vacuum cleaner that had lost suction. He steadily worked through thousands of prototypes to reach the pièce de résistance – DC01 – the first dual cyclone vacuum cleaner that turned the vacuum industry upside down in 1993. Since then, the company has been on a roll, producing the most innovative cleaning machines anyone could ever ask for and then some. Dyson continues to keep his head in the game as a pivotal piece in Dyson’s research and development process and works full-time out of their headquarters in Malmesbury. Let’s see how this legendary designer and inventor stays inspired in this week’s Friday Five.


1. Rotring Engineer Pencil
Every design engineer needs a good pencil. I use it for sketching. It’s comfortable to hold and rotates easily in your hand. What’s interesting about the Rotring pens and pencils is that they have no serious rival. The simplicity of the pencil’s design somehow exudes quiet authority.


2. Heron Parigi Drawing Board
Paolo Parigi released the Heron drawing board, his first mass-produced design, when he was just 28 years old. I like its simplicity. It uses minimal parts, but every element is thought through and exhibits fine workmanship. Dyson engineers all now use Computer Aided Design, so I have the only remaining board in the building, but it’s wonderful when sketching up my own designs.


3. Wink Chair by Toshiyuki Kita
With its Mickey Mouse ear armrests, its rounded contours and its jolly colors, the Wink Chair has an animal-like charm quite unlike most modern furniture. It moves, too. It can be flexed and bent to many different positions. It feels like you’re sitting in a giant seashell.


4. My Charitable Organization
I brought the James Dyson Foundation to America to inspire young people to take on engineering. We send engineering boxes – a free reverse-engineering kit that allows students to dissemble a Dyson machine to discover how and why it works – to any school that requests it. All children need are a few ideas and an environment to tinker and learn. We need the next generation of Thomas Edisons and Daniel Burnhams.


5. Buckminster Fuller
Buckminster Fuller is one of my heroes. He turned me into an engineer. I discovered him when I was a student at the Royal College of Art in the mid-60s. He was an engineer, architect, designer and inventor all rolled into one. His inventions were slightly mad but very inspiring. I could see the excitement of thinking up a new bit of technology and actually bringing it to life.

Caroline Williamson is Editorial Director of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.