Dr Jac Fennell

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  • Qualifications:PhD, MA (RCA), BA(Hons), FHEA
  • Position:Senior Lecturer in Product Design
  • Department:FET - Architecture and the Built Environment
  • Telephone:+4411732 86610
  • Email:Jac.Fennell@uwe.ac.uk

About me

Jac is a Senior Lecturer & Design Researcher in Product Design at UWE. With a background in design research, she did her post doc at the CARIAD research group (Centre for Applied Research in Inclusive Arts and Design) at Cardiff Metropolitan University. She is a graduate of Goldsmiths (PhD) and the Royal College of Art (MA Interaction Design). Her PhD explored chance memories to find ways to support involuntary reminiscence by design. The findings report on the value of using this approach for designing for people with dementia. 

Jac gained real-world industry experience working in the R&D labs for Hewlett-Packard, Philips, Ideo and MIT Medialab. She has had work published and exhibited internationally.

In recent research she has collaborated with the NHS, care home organisations and Alzheimer's Society to design new products to support well-being for people affected by dementia. One product, HUG (a long-armed, soft cushion-like, wearable object with beating heart and music), has had commercial success through a spinout that she co-founded and manages (www.HUG.world). HUG has significant impact on a person's wellbeing, with carers stating it 'transforms' and 'prolongs the life' of people using it. The HUG has been evaluated with great success and it is now sold across the world, bringing comfort and joy to thousands of people.

Area of expertise


Interaction and Experience design, Product Design, Speculative Design, Inclusive Design, Design for Dementia, Design for Health & Wellbeing, Designing for unexpected and involuntary remembering.



The Power of a HUG (AHRC Impact Accelerator Award)

A KE and engagement event to share the powerful and emotional stories of how a soft therapeutic comforter, the HUG, can have life changing benefits. The event, held at Senedd Welsh Parliament, presented case studies to an audience of health professionals, experts by experience, charities, academics, and government. They heard about the positive benefits HUGs are having to the lives of people with dementia, learning disabilities, mental health, autism and children in schools. This was followed by discussion around the future of assistive technology to support care brought to light ways we can take action to make best use of AT and how we might drive the agenda forward.

Collaborators: UWE Bristol, Cardiff Met, HUG by LAUGH, GRPB, Life Sciences Hub Wales, Aneurin Bevan UHB, Pobl, Alzheimer's Society, Dementia UK.


A project to understand the challenges faced by people upon a diagnosis of dementia. Using a co-design approach, the project involves people who have had a recently diagnosis of dementia to design new personalised objects that might offer emotional support and connection.

LAUGH EMPOWERED (Welsh Government, ERDF SMART Expertise, 2018 - 2020)

An evaluation study exploring the health and wellbeing benefits of HUG by LAUGH®. This was led by Cardiff Metropolitan University (where I was Research Fellow) and done in collaboration with the NHS, Sunrise Senior Living and Stroke Hub Wales. Reporting on the positive benefits of HUG supported the launch of spin-out company HUG by LAUGH ltd that I co-founded and am managing director of: www.HUG.world .

Open Doors project with Men's Shed (Cardiff Met Uni, FabLab and Age Cymru, 2018)

A knowledge exchange project with Men's Shed charity This project built on the relationship between LAUGH research team and Squirrel's Nest Men's Shed in Tondu, where we exchange digital fabrication and craft techniques. Men's Shed is an organisation that supports the mental health of men in the community through making and craft practice. Link to video of the collaboration.

LAUGH: Ludic Artefacts Using Gesture and Haptics (AHRC funded, 2015-2018)

A research project led by Cardiff Metropolitan University (where I was Research Assistant) to develop a series of innovative playful devices that amuse, distract, comfort engage, bring joy, and promote 'in the moment' living for people with late stage dementia. Collaboration with Pobl, UTS Sydney and Coventry University ( www.laughproject.info ).


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