Joyce Thomas

Class of 1975

Visiting Assistant Professor of Industrial Design, Visiting Research Assistant Professor, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

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Joyce Thomas, MFA, IDSA is an innovator and educator with a passion for design. As a professional industrial designer, she has worked across interdisciplinary boundaries and integrated marketing, engineering, and consumer needs into creative products for Electrolux, Euro-Pro, Bosch, Jarden Consumer Solutions, Sunbeam, Crock-Pot, and many others for 30+ years. She has employed the consumer as an active participant in the designing process, utilizing user-centered design, design ethnography, and empathic design research strategies to focus on enhancing quality of life for people through more intuitive and meaningful products. Consumer products designed by Joyce Thomas have produced more than $4 billion in retail sales in the US market.
Joyce discovered ID as a freshman at RIT on a career day when a senior waxed poetic about product design. Never actually having considered that people designed things, Joyce discovered what would be her lifelong passion and career. She attributes her success to the great foundation given to her by RIT professors Craig McArt and Toby Thompson. “One short sentence that Toby told my class long ago has had a big influence my career, the products I have developed, and what I tell my students. ‘I try not to know so much about what can be done (or how it can be done) that it stops me from trying to do it in a different way.’ It has helped fuel me to move past the ‘we already tried that’ mentality, and jump out of the easy part of the job (the research) into the hard part – the designing.”
Joyce has invented products that have been awarded 59 US and international patents as Principal at Joyce Thomas Designs and as an in-house corporate designer for Electrolux.
Joyce is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Industrial Design at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where she teaches interdisciplinary design studios across industrial design, engineering and business. She is also the Director of Faculty and Curriculum for the Institute of Arts Entrepreneurship in Chicago, IL. This post baccalaureate program is for creatives across the fine and applied arts learning to apply their creativity to an ever-broadening spectrum of challenges in our complex world.


Eureka Quick Up and Brush Up

Floor Care Lt.Wt. Upright Vacuum Cleaner
With the MiniMite handvac, in 1982 I neatly sidestepped the design and utility patents Black&Decker was protecting on its innovative Dustbuster cordless handvac. A year later I added a handle and a floor nozzle and Eureka scooped the market with the introduction of the very first light weight battery-operated upright cleaner.
Introduced in 1984, this market became one of the fastest growing segments of the floor care industry. Black&Decker followed suit with their own product, but infringed on the QuickUp’s utility patents and ended up paying royalties to Eureka.
In addition to the home/consumer market, the airline and restaurant industries adopted use of this product for its size and convenience. This prompted the need for removable battery packs and the ability to charge multiple battery packs to extend the time usability.
“Appliance Manufacturer” awarded top honors to this product in its first annual Excellence in Design Award in 1987.
To keep pace with production requirements, the original design was updated in 1999. This product line incorporates both battery-operated models and corded versions. Consideration for insert molding and utilization of existing parts (floor nozzle and stock hand grip) were primary criteria for the redesign. Rather than a simple face-lift of an existing product, new features were incorporated in the redesign both internally and externally to add to the functionality and perceived value of this product.



Eureka Quick Up and Brush Up

The QuickUp continues to be produced today.
Designed and developed in the US by Electrolux Home Care Product NA (The Eureka Co.), Bloomington, IL. Manufactured in China.
This product has been awarded 15 patents – US, UK, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Japan, Finland, Norway, Germany, and European.
Total Product Life Cycle – 28 years and counting
More than 20 million units sold
Estimated total retail sales: more than $750 million