Tuesday, September 17, 2013

the vacuum graph

I was flipping through a recent copy of Dwell over the weekend and came across the following advertisement.

In case you can't read sideways, the * at the left says: "Machine representation relative to Air Watts. Suction tested against upright market to ASTM F558 at cleaner head, dust-loaded as per IEC 60312-1.

It caused me to pause (as most graphs, especially when found in unusual places - like a vacuum ad in a design magazine - do) and stare at it for a bit. I have my reaction, but rather than share that with you, I thought I'd open up this post to gather your feedback. What do you like about the ad? What bothers you? What do you imagine the creators assumed about their audience when they conceptualized the design? What questions might you want to ask the designers? Does the ad make you want to buy a Dyson?

Leave a comment with your thoughts. (I look forward to reading them!)


  1. The explanation at the left isn't helpful, as the term "representation" doesn't suggest a specific metric. I also suspect there's a levelling off in performance at a certain suction level (which isn't addressed) so the whole ad seems simplistic.

  2. Terrible. Just terrible. The ad instantly sends a message that the vacuum is bigger and more cumbersome than any other vacuum. Inadvertently, this ad SUCKS, no pun intended.

  3. Because the data is used to scale the vacuums in two dimensions, the vacuum with 2x the suction uses 4x the ink, and our 3-d perception makes it seem 8x as large.

    So it's a sneaky way to overemphasize the 2x suction advantage.

    Worse yet, it just makes the Dyson look like a huge vacuum that I couldn't even fit into my house.

  4. A few points:
    1. It assumes that we know or belive that more suction is better than less and that there is no maximum effective level.
    2. It distors the other machines by making their image more narrow (the bars are not equal width). It is graphing the same metric on both scales creating a multiplier effect.
    3. It claims it is better than all others and only shows 2 others
    4. It does not factor in price, which is what most consumer have to balance performance against.

    For me, it would make me consider a Dyson (even with the graphic flaws). It is an effective ad, however, I would never allow it in my company in a management presentation.


  5. They increase both height and proportional size which is misleading.

  6. At least the title is very clear and to the point. The data point is too technical, but I imagine they don't expect people to actually read that but it protects them legally. What is very weird is the use of vaccum pictures instead of bars, which distorts the size of the vacuum, and calls into question whether we are comparing apples to apples so to speak.

  7. I think it is an interesting way to replace a graph bar for the actual product. In my mind I don't think it is effective to just show the vacuum image only, the bar should have been there too to make the numbers clear but in general I think the idea is original. I have Dyson so I know what the ad is proposing is true. :)

  8. While the size looks giant, the large vacuum also looks more powerful & stronger. That puny one on the left probably couldn't even vacuum up a crumb.

    So, maybe that works?

    Or it might eat me.

  9. Yes - because
    a) seeing is believing [cliche]
    b) if it's on the Internet it must be true [new cliche]
    c) It's kinda like a graph?
    d) Dyson's are sooo expensive, they must be better.

  10. Interesting post, Cole. I'm guessing most of the comments above were perhaps made by those with a bit of experience in this area? Regardless, I'm guessing that the folks at Dyson didn't specifically have the readers of this blog in mind when this ad was created. I think it's great and here's why. I can't speak precisely to the demographics of the target market, but it's clearly directed toward anyone who has ever been frustrated because their vacuum cleaner didn't have enough suction. Theoretically, that would include everyone who has ever used one. Suction is huge. Dyson knows this and the ad makes the point in less than five seconds. First glance: Technical "chart stuff" aside, the size of the vacuum cleaners (in order, which should please Cole to no end) obviously speaks volumes. The fact that the "graph" is out of proportion is irrelevant to the modern day "suction seeker." Second glance: The numbers in bold (whatever they mean) officially confirm the first impression. So, in less than five seconds (it's a magazine, remember), Dyson makes its point. This, from one who identifies more with charts than housekeeping, but it wasn't necessarily intended for me. I didn't read the print below the ad - I didn't need to, and most won't - but it's available. Nor did I even attempt to read the vertical print, which is perhaps its purpose. I'd say mission accomplished, Dyson. Well done, Cole.

  11. Good point Jeff. I take this from a marketing perspective and not on data visualization. The title is clear that Dyson has more suction and immediately we notice he big vacuum cleaner which is clear and impressive design. I thin from an ad point of view, it delivered the message, but from graphics point of view not so much. Again the ad is doing its work. My 2 cents

  12. Honey, do we have enough space for a giant vacuum cleaner?