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Design Museum takes a look behind the scenes of Dyson's research, design and development facilty
Malmesbury, Wiltshire, the Dyson headquarters, is home to around 2.200 people. The total area covered by Dyson HQ is 35.000 m2. © Dyson.

GENT.- Design museum Gent is the only museum of its kind in Belgium. Its collection policy emphasises modern and contemporary design. In this context, there is also a place for industrial design. In line with this vision, the museum works to develop design exhibitions – including those on product development – with an international allure. Recent examples include ‘Tupperware Transparent’, ‘Dirk Wynants – Design works’, ‘Esthétique Domestique’ and ‘Enthoven Associates’.

Industrial design focuses on the development of mass products, such as coffee machines, telephones, office chairs – and vacuum cleaners. With the transition from manual production to industrial production over the course of the 19th century, industrial design evolved into a discipline in its own right. In industrial design, the designer attempts to unite the functional needs and aesthetic value of a product: the end result should be both practical and beautiful.

As early as in the 1990s, several of James Dyson's early designs had made it into the museum collection. With its enormous investment in research, design and development, his company is currently one of the most innovative businesses in Britain. In 2013, inspired by the company's 20th anniversary, the idea for a joint exhibition emerged. This co-production is the first of its kind on mainland Europe.

At Design museum Gent, you now have a special opportunity to take a look behind the scenes of Dyson's research, design and development facility. Fingerprint scanners and unique access badges for each engineer help maintain secrecy. On their first day of work, each engineer is given a notebook for recording ideas and making sketches. It is the first of many such notebooks, all of which are kept under lock and key. Only one person has access to everything: James Dyson, Dyson's Founder and Chief Engineer.

Just like at the Dyson company headquarters in Britain, the exhibition features a ‘security gate’ which visitors must pass through before entering. Oversized books tell the story of the Dyson design process. Based on an interactive approach, visitors learn how a digital motor works, step into a semi-anechoic room and operate the controls of a test robot. The exhibition naturally would not be complete without the Ballbarrow, one of James Dyson's first designs. All products are presented, from the first sketches to the prototypes and the end product.

The exhibition covers production processes, choice of material, ergonomics and sustainability. Visitors discover how James Dyson and his team not only develop new products, but also try to improve existing objects by applying new materials, designs or techniques.

Dyson employs over 4,300 people worldwide, almost half of whom are scientists and engineers. 2,200 work at the company’s headquarters in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. In 2014, Dyson aims to expand the number of employees to 4,900 worldwide. At the Malmesbury office, 850 engineers and scientists constantly work to develop new and better technologies. Each year, Dyson invests over € 3.03 million to acquire and protect the intellectual property rights for its technology.

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