Pets at Home puppy challenge inspires Student Design Award entrants

The second set of winners have been announced for the annual RetailEXPO Student Design Awards 2020, after they tackled a brief set by Pets at Home.

Every year three retail brands set challenges for students from colleges and universities. Their efforts at tackling these briefs, supported by mentors from major design agencies, are then judged by a panel of experts chaired by design industry consultant Lynda Relph-Knight. Due to Covid-19 lockdown measures, the judging sessions this year took place via video-conferencing.

Pets at Home store format and development manager, Sarah Perry, set the brief, which challenged the students to create a Puppy/Kitten World as a store-in-store format. The concept needed to establish the space as a community hub for pet owners, where they could celebrate their pets, seek expert advice, and access a range of specialist products.

The retailer set a touch challenge, requiring students to create an entirely new brand identity for the space, and to ensure it provided a comprehensive retail offer, an events space, health centre with the potential for veterinary services in larger branches, and an area for seating and refreshments.

Tackling the brief were second year students from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), mentored by independent designer Helen Shelley; and from the University for the Creative Arts Farnham, mentored by Tim Greenhalgh, Mario Brown and James Donnellan, all from Fitch.

The judging panel for 2020 consisted of retailers and design experts. Previous brief setter The Body Shop was represented by global store design and VM director Jo Percival and global store design manager Amy Duke, and Specsavers by future store designer Tesh Chauhan.

Gensler principal Jon Tollit, Dalziel & Pow design project leader Anna Sanders, Quinine founder Ian Johnston, AHMH architect Franceso Draisci and independent interaction designer Ross Phillips. all bought their experience and expertise to the judging panel as well.


Ruth Gorner, MMU – The New Owners Hub

The New Owner, by Ruth Gorner
The New Owner, by Ruth Gorner

Judges were impressed by the sense of community in this design, which focused on giving new pet owners a place to meet and swap notes. They also liked the lightness of touch employed in the design.

Highly commended:

Daniel Eckhoff, MMU - The Ultimate Playground

Ultimate Playground by Daniel Eckhoff
Ultimate Playground by Daniel Eckhoff

The judges felt this entry could be adopted immediately. They particularly liked its architectural quality and the Memphis references.


Forrest Hu, MMU - Pets Talk


Diana Vladila, UCA - Pets at Home Kindergarten

Milena Sinkevic, UCA - Discover with your pet

Tiff Ruane, UCA - The Great Adventure

Winners of the third category, working to a brief set by Pizza Express, will be announced next week.