When thinking about some of the great innovations in human history - the Eiffel Tower, the Great Pyramids, or even Tesla’s Model 3 - one rarely imagines the vacuum cleaner. However, the vacuum has been a surprising source of great innovation and design. As the epitome of “form follows function,” the vacuum offers designers the challenge of being both an effective machine and a beautiful staple in the home.
One company stands out as a leader in this quest for beauty and function. Electrolux, headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden was founded in 1919. Electrolux made good design its priority and set out with a mission to create vacuum cleaners that were “convenient, easy and enjoyable to use at home.”
With these challenges in mind, Electrolux launched Model V in 1921. Model V challenged legacy vacuum designs that were bulky and difficult to maneuver. Model V sat on two thin metal runners which allowed it to lie on its side on the floor and maneuver throughout any space effortlessly. The Model V set the tone for all future vacuum designs.
The 1930s and 1940s saw a movement toward streamlined design and the vacuum was no exception. The founder of Electrolux, Axel Wenner-Gren, recognized the need for this clarity in designing consumer products and hand-picked leading industrial designers to work with him on developing the perfect vacuum and other household products.
Then in 1937, Electrolux introduced the world to the Model XXX vacuum cleaner, designed by famed industrial designer, Lurelle Guild. The Model XXX’s dramatic Art Deco style mirrored the Art Deco styles that were dominating its era. The vacuum was perfectly suited for the demand that consumer products be not just functional, but also beautiful.
Electrolux taught us that the opportunity for design is everywhere. Creativity and innovation are not simply relegated to the arts; it is in our homes. Electrolux also taught us that the client is king. It’s dedication to consumer insight and recognition of the selling power of good design, paved the way for entire industries of competitive consumer products.
As architects and industrial designers, we appreciate the work of leading innovators like Electrolux. In fact, our Principal Architect has owned almost 30 Electrolux vacuums throughout his lifetime! Because of these forward-thinking personalities, design became accessible to the masses. Everyday-Americans could own their own piece of art and appreciate the great impact that thoughtful design has on life.
So, the next time you look at your vacuum or your refrigerator or even your furniture, quietly thank people like the ones at Electrolux for ensuring that they both work and are beautiful.