Case studies

Science meets beauty

Laura Howard

Laura Howard

Design Engineer – Advanced, Malmesbury

Becoming a ‘hair expert’ and the female engineering perspective.

When the Dyson Supersonic™ hair dryer launched in 2016 it was a game-changer. Having worked behind the scenes in the Dyson hair labs and on our next generation Personal Care technology, it seems weird to say I’m now a ‘hair expert’, but I guess that’s what I’ve become.

While working on the hair dryer as a design engineer, I got involved in user trials which led to further interest in research. I wanted to understand what hair means to people, the psychology behind it. I got an opportunity to join the Research team, initially on a six-month secondment. People are fascinating and I wanted to know more, to understand how to get information in a robust way and use it in the engineering process to make products better. Research can be very powerful. I didn’t expect to be doing this type of work at all, but at Dyson we’re inquisitive people and like to get involved in everything ourselves. Using moderators in-house is unlikely to happen elsewhere. Because of this, Dyson is a great place to move around and develop as an engineer.

I’m still working in Personal Care across various projects, conducting user trials. We take a holistic approach to understand what certain aspects mean, for example asking questions like, “what does damage mean?”. We gather research from real people with emotional and cultural differences, people with different hair structure and ways of using products. It’s a whole new layer of research and there’s real detail behind the metrics. As an engineer, I’m able to quickly identify the points to relay back to our engineers and how they can use the information. I love building bridges between teams. I’m learning so much, still, and every day is different.

Supersonic hairdryer prototypes

Dyson’s expansion into the health and beauty industry will, I hope, encourage more female engineers. I think the female perspective within our project group was helpful in considering the end user and we’ve been able to have a really positive influence on the design of the Dyson Supersonic™ hair dryer. Things like understanding that you can have too much power, creating an unpleasant hair drying experience, and that your hair can have a huge impact emotionally.

In New Product Innovation (NPI) I had the opportunity to work with true experts, bringing together extraordinary people across a lot of different fields. By using their knowledge and acting upon it, I’ve broadened my understanding, which really suits me. I like to stay involved with all aspects of the Dyson Supersonic™ hair dryer, which means I learn loads every day. Airflow, aero-acoustics, electronics, hair science. I never realised there was so much to know about hair. It’s been fascinating.

At Dyson we’re encouraged to find out more ourselves. Within our team we’ll learn something new and share it, growing our knowledge together. Any day where I’ve found a problem and solved it gives me a sense of achievement. It’s about mindset; we’ve got a problem that needs a solution. I’d much rather we had problems in the design process than when it’s out with the consumer.

There are good days and challenging days. Looking back over my time at Dyson, I’d have to say that launching the Dyson Supersonic™ hair dryer was pretty special. And I remember being a bit scared the first time I met James Dyson! Yet when you’re in a review meeting with him you’re treated like an engineer, with the freedom to give your opinion and know that it matters. It’s a great experience.

Like everyone at Dyson, I’m constantly learning and constantly improving. There’s a lot of potential here, and I think it’s going to be a really exciting future.