Kenwood display at The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre. Credit: James White

The Arts and Humanities Research Council will fully fund a University of Portsmouth doctoral student to research the selling success of Kenwood

2 April 2020

5 min read

The University of Portsmouth has been awarded prestigious funding for a study into the selling success of Kenwood, a British kitchen appliances manufacturer operating since 1947.

The award is a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which will fully fund a doctoral student to conduct research in partnership with the Science Museum in London. 

Science Museum curator and co-supervisor Dr Helen Peavitt said: “The Science Museum Group is delighted to be collaborating with the University of Portsmouth on this important project. It provides a unique opportunity for a student to work with the two organisations and to draw together strands of material culture, Kenwood heritage and memories both local to and from within our rich object and archive collections.” 

The project is called ‘Eye appeal is buy appeal: The design, mediation and consumption of Kenwood’s kitchen appliances, 1947-2020’. The title is a quote from company founder the late Ken Wood who used it to talk about the importance of the design and demonstration of appliances in selling them to the public.

Professor of Design History, Deborah Sugg Ryan

I’m honoured to have been awarded this funding to explore the history of one of Britain’s most best loved and innovative product design companies.

Deborah Sugg Ryan, Professor of Design History

Ken Wood’s Stepson John, who donated Kenwood archive material to the Science Museum said: “I’m delighted to hear about this wonderful project which will do justice to Ken Wood’s very considerable legacy as a leader and innovator in the field of kitchen appliances. I think he would be extremely proud of the fact that it is now possible to gain a PhD in studying the company and its methods that he set up in Woking in 1947."

Professor of Design History, Deborah Sugg Ryan, from the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries won the award. She said: “I’m honoured to have been awarded this funding to explore the history of one of Britain’s most best loved and innovative product design companies. The collaborative model offers students the benefits of partnership working, including professional development and work experience with the Science Museum to enhance employment opportunities outside of academia.”

The project will critically explore the design, marketing and consumption of Kenwood’s products, with a particular emphasis on demonstrations in shops, department stores, trade and public exhibitions, country and agricultural shows as a selling technique, a hitherto neglected area of study. 

These mediation strategies will be compared and contrasted with the actual consumer experience of Kenwood products through oral and written testimonies. This will be set within the broader context of domestic appliance consumption and include oral histories with Kenwood consumers. 


The project will be supervised by Professor Sugg Ryan and Dr Laurel Forster, Reader in Cultural History, along with the Science Museum’s Curator of Consumer and Environmental Technology Dr Helen Peavitt and Head of Libraries and Archives Mr Nick Wyatt. 

Based at the University of Portsmouth, the student will have access to nearby archives at Kenwood’s Havant headquarters where it is part of the De’Longhi group.

Mark Welch, Managing Director of Kenwood said: “We’re delighted to be working with the University of Portsmouth on this exciting project. The project will focus on design, marketing and consumer purchasing behaviours of Kenwood and how these activities have been influential in the success, consumer awareness and love for the Kenwood brand and its iconic products"

The student will also work with The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre in Havant and will have access to research material from the recent Heritage Lottery Fund enabled exhibition and documentary film ‘Kenwood in Havant’. 

Sophie Fullerlove, director and CEO said: “Kenwood have been a hugely important part of the fabric of our area’s social history and internationally for product design.  We look forward to working with the student to develop our own understanding of the local importance of the brand and its work and enable us to better tell the story to our visitors and community.”

The project will allow the student to build object histories of the design, marketing, circulation and use of Kenwood’s products, providing valuable insights to help the Science Museum inform the development of a model for future displays, interpretation and collecting strategies.