Supposedly electric hand dryers found in public restrooms are better than paper towels because they are more hygienic, require less manufacturing energy, lower janitorial costs, and reduce landfill. Supposedly. However, most people who use hand dryers in public restrooms either punch the start button several times to evaporate residual moisture, walk out with damp hands, or complete the drying process by wiping their hands on their clothes. The conventional hand dryer is a candidate for the “bad design” award.
Enter James Dyson, a designer who studied at the Royal College of Art, chaired the board of trustees of the Design Museum in London, and invented the revolutionary Dyson Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner. Dyson considered hand drying from a different point of view — not as an evaporation process done with hot air, but like a windshield wiper that scrapes off water. Apertures the width of an eyelash run the length of two blades sending an unheated airstream out at speeds of 400 mph to dry hands in about 12 seconds, compared to 30-40 seconds with traditional hand dryers. The Dyson Airblade, which uses digital technology, turns on automatically when users insert their hands and a HEPA filter sanitizes the air. Unlike conventional dryers it does not blow hot air around the room, causing any germs present to circulate. Also, because it uses 80% less energy than warm-air hand dryers, it costs less to run and is better for the environment.
Dyson has backed up his technology with design features that ensure intuitive use. It’s in keeping with his philosophy of “designing from the inside out.” As he has stated in the past, “Design is not just about how something looks, but how it works. I don’t see a difference between a designer and an engineer, and I don’t want to see a difference. A designer should be both.”