When it comes to hair dryers, my game has always been bleak at best. My hair broke so many while I was growing up (fans and long locks just don't mix), my mom resorted to buying the cheapest ones she could find at the drugstore. When I moved out, the hair dryer I took with me was a pathetic folding travel model. That's why I inwardly yelped with glee when I saw the press release for the new Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer ($499.99; available August 2016 in Canada). A lightweight, highly effective hair dryer that's also quiet, ergonomically balanced, and tangle-proof? Sign me up, please! I chatted with Dyson Global Product Development Director Tom Crawford to find out exactly what went into the making of the new Dyson Supersonic.
I've always associated Dyson with vacuum cleaners and home goods (like the fan). Why did you decide to launch a hair dryer?
We’re a technology organization willing to take risks to solve problems that others ignore. When we go into an industry, we want to be sure we can make it fundamentally better, and with hair dryers we could. Conventional hair dryers can be bulky, hot, and difficult to maneuver—the hair dryer design hasn’t changed since the 1960s. Using our expertise in motors and Air Multiplier technology, combined with an understanding of hair science, we set out to design a machine that is fast, light, and intelligent.
What were some of design challenges you faced?
There were many challenges we faced during the development of the Dyson Supersonic. First, we had to learn about hair – how to test it, how to make it repeatable, how to measure it. Using real hair was crucial to development; we found imitation materials could not replicate the unique characteristics of real hair fibres, which is why we spent $80,000 CAD on natural hair tresses. Another was how to keep the technology compact. Every engineering challenge is made simpler when there is more space, but James challenged us to keep the machine small and compact, which drove a huge focus on the design and system engineering.
Did you look at hair dryers on the market during the design process?
Yes, we had to understand the problems that other hair dryers presented. From the weight of machine’s motor in the head, the temperature of air exiting the machine, to the techniques people use while drying their hair. In our passion to get the deepest insight, we observed over 100 women over two continents wash and dry their hair over a total of 275 hours.
A lot of work and innovation went into this: 100+ patents, 103 engineers, 4 years in development, 600 prototypes. Which achievement in the Dyson Supersonic are you most proud of?
James challenged us to develop a high-performing machine that addressed the frustrations with existing hair dryers. We did just that—Dyson Supersonic is a fast, focused, and intelligent machine—the first manufactured hair dryer with the motor in the handle, all in a compact size.
What are the product dimensions and how much does it weigh?
The machine is 24 cm long and weighs 1.82 lbs. The cable length is 2.6 metres.
One of the Dyson Supersonic's features is the superior acoustic engineering to reduce noise. How quiet is it?
The Dyson Supersonic hair dryer is engineered for reduced noise, without compromising speed and power. The machine is 77 decibels. We were able to push one tone within the motor to a sound frequency beyond the audible range for humans, which helped to reduce overall sound and tone emitted. Because the motor is small and compact, we were able to position it in the handle instead of the head, and have surrounded it by acoustic silencers to further reduce sound.
I have thick and heavy Asian hair and often my arms get tired and I give up on blow-drying before I'm done. How long does it take for the Dyson Supersonic to dry hair like mine?
That’s a tough question! Different types of hair handle stresses differently. We tested the machine on a total of seven different hair types across various ethnicities. Interestingly, faster drying isn’t just about high-speed air, but also having the right balance of pressure and turbulence.
Does the Dyson Supersonic travel well?
The machine is quite small in size and weighs only 1.82 lbs., so it’s easy to pack up and travel with.
Any plans to Dyson-ify other heat styling tools?
We never comment on products that are in development, but can say we work on a pipeline of technology that stretches 25 years; you’ll just have to stay tuned!