Discovering Design: Big Dragon Studios LLC/Zeewok LLC
By Vicki Matranga
Design Programs + Services
Get to know the people behind the stylish products that will appear at the 2014 International Home + Housewares Show in Discover Design. We’ll be posting conversations with exhibitors to give you a glimpse of the inspirations, influences and ideas that go into creating the exciting products that you’ll see in March at McCormick Place.
Today we get acquainted with Big Dragon Studios LLC, headquartered in Davies, Fla. We’re speaking with Grant Bell, IDSA, Founder and Creative Director of both Big Dragon Studios and Zeewok. Born in South Africa and with family in New Zealand, he worked as a professional chef as he traveled around the world in the 1990s. Grant settled in Florida in 1999 and studied industrial design.
In 2006, he established Big Dragon Studios, a design consultancy that created products in the consumer electronics, office products and household appliances categories. With global experience in driving innovative strategies and market research for large brands and retail product design groups, Grant later served as director of design and innovation at Office Depot. His entrepreneurial energy moved him to leave that position so he could concentrate on his Zeewok line of housewares products with Big Dragon. The success of his Dunkfish tea infuser launched on Kickstarter in January 2012, combined with his chef’s perspective and life as the father of two young children, propelled him to seek opportunities to create distinctive products to use at home and in the kitchen.
Where do you find inspiration when designing new products?
I can’t say our inspiration comes from any one place. Our designers come from very diverse backgrounds and experiences. This is very important to us as it infuses uniqueness into the products we create. Our discovery process may start with a new material, influences from other industries or nature. What we are very particular about is attention to details, materials, and finishes.
Are there any specific designers, places or eras that influence you?
Gosh, where do I start? Henry Dreyfuss, Syd Mead, Nanami Cowdroy, Daniel Simon, the list is endless. The hardest part of design is breaking a product down into its simplest elements, while keeping it fully functional and beautiful. I love the elegance and simplicity of many things found in nature.
How do you choose which idea to take to the next step — to product development?
We choose designs that evoke an emotional connection. Our ultimate goal is to create products which are timeless and will be around for year to come. I want to see our product on “American Pickers” 80 years from now, not in a landfill.
Is there an approach or look that joins the functionality, form or emotional appeal of your product line?
For me passion is the key ingredient. It’s easy to design a highly functional product, but without great form or that emotional bond, the product is worthless. With our new line of “Turbine” knives, we identified all the touch points needed in a great work tool, and stripped away everything else, such as the center core. This allowed us to remove the only part on the knife which degrades and gets damaged over time; the wooden handle. We also treated the set holistically, as most knife blocks seem to be an afterthought.
Where are your products manufactured?
We chose our manufacturing locations based on the product need and getting the best possible outcomes. Most of our products manufactured and assembled in China. We also have manufacturing partners in Japan and the U.S.
How do you see design’s importance in our industry as it moves forward?
We have designed products for numerous industries, and find the home wares industry to be one of the most competitive design arenas. There is a passion here that is apparent everywhere you look. If you don’t have that passion and it does not show in the product you design, then you are probably in the wrong industry.
Tell us about your previous experience with Discover Design.
2013 was the first year for us to exhibit, and we were a last minute entry. But we wanted to get our feet wet and have spent the last year prepping and getting our next product line ready for this Show.
I absolutely love the energy at the International Home + Housewares Show, and was especially inspired when I first walked the Discover Design section four years ago. It felt like I had returned home after a very long trip. It is very exciting for us to be here doing what we love.
Thank you, Grant, for the up close and personal look at your inspirations and your work. We look forward to seeing more of your whimsical and innovative products at your Booth S3880 in Discover Design. Contact Grant directly at
Learn more about the Zeewok line at