Belfast Telegraph

It’s a dog’s life for Derry firm

By William Allen

A Londonderry firm has scooped an award at a US fashion show for pets, with its unique dog bowl design that is winning orders around the world.

Designers at the University of Ulster teamed up with HugX to win the top award at New York’s Pet Fashion Week.

Product design lecturers Justin Magee and Stephen McGilloway created a highly innovative and eye-catching pet food bowl from an idea by Jane Grant, head of HugX, a Derry pet firm.

The HugX bowl beat off stiff international competition from top designers including Italian design house, Alessi, to win the coveted ‘Lifestyle Innovation Award’ in the pet dinnerware category at the recent New York show.

It is currently stocked in exclusive pet boutiques and gift stores in west coast America and New York. HugX has had orders from as far away as Australia and Brazil.

The pet market, generally, has been growing rapidly around the world and is now recognised as a highly lucrative business. In the US alone, it is worth $43.4 billion.

Ms Grant approached the two product design specialists, who are based at the university’s Magee campus, after watching her red setter repeatedly chase its bowl across the floor.

“I had some ideas that I thought would work but needed help to make them a reality,” she said.

The lecturers, who are known as Bigsmall Design, developed a range of concepts, culminating in the prize-winning effective and attractive product.

Mr Magee said: “Our work with HugX is a good example of how staff at the university can use their expertise to work in partnership with local companies to help them bring their ideas to fruition.”

The award is the latest success for the two product design lecturers who provide design consultancy for a wide range of public and private sector organisations on both sides of the border.

Their portfolio includes new product concepts for international design projects such as Lego systems, the Smart car, Mercedes M Class, Audi A2 and Whale Pumps as well as helping to develop the HugX range. They have also been mentors for NORIBIC’s Technology Signpost programmes, the Western Innovation Network and the Creative Link initiative and are design consultants on the Invest NI Design Development Programme.

Hailed as a “total rethink in dog dining” at the US event, the HugX bowl is angled in a way that allows the food always to fall into its centre. The innovative design keeps the bowl steady and prevents it toppling over and the bowl is also non-slip.

Mr Magee added: “Jane Grant, CEO of HugX, came to us with a series of design issues on the subject of pet dining from which we then developed a focused design brief.

“We delivered a broad range of concepts and took the project through to prototype and to mass production. Tom Casey of Trufflepig — a graphic design company based in the Innovation Centre at Magee — developed the product branding and packaging in tandem.” Ms Grant said she was “blown away with the quality of expertise available locally”.

She added: “I would certainly encourage other entrepreneurs to try and tap into the expert help readily available to them in the north-west region.”

HugX has plans to extend its product range with two new polymer base designs aimed at the Far Eastern market.

Belfast Telegraph