After the Deluge by Anne Louise Girodet Triosson

We don’t notice great design. We only notice design when it’s poor. Great design functions properly for the task it has been designed for. Whether it is an object like an iPhone or a well-read book – design is all about being transparent to the user. Great designers, by extension, are only heroes to other designers. Herb Lubalin is not a household name, but his work has shaped modern typographic design. We know the name of Steve Jobs – but we don’t know the name of the person who designed the iPhone (Jonathan Ive’s Industrial Design Team). This truth makes me perversely happy, then, that the designer and architect Neri Oxman’s name has entered the public lexicon because she is dating Brad Pitt. My hope is that people query to see who the heck she is and learn about the work that she does.

Oxman’s work is mostly theoretical, but it highlights some very important ideas – and her work actually shows how design can work with nature or nature can be filtered through design, to remake how things are made. Through her lab at MIT she works at the edge of technology – acknowledging that there has never been a better time in history for designers. Complex computational designs can be done with a few lines of code – and prototypes can be iterated on quickly through 3-D printers. Ms. Oxman takes these methods and looks to nature as a template for creating a new language of design and manufacture.

While Oxman is working at the bleeding edge of design, and I am working with a centuries old craft, we are both looking to nature as inspiration for our work. While she looks to how nature builds things – I look at how the human body moves. My craft, ultimately, is in the service of how the human body moves through space – specifically through Urban environments.

The arrows show the points of balance on the human body – pressure in one way or the other adds stress to a standing body.

Tango uses those points of balance to create dynamic movement within the dance.

When I design a bag, I start with the body. How is the body going to carry the bag. I think about how a body carries tension and how a body carries weight and then I think about how the body can support that weight dynamically. I think about how dancers and martial artists work with weight to create dynamic balance.

Traditional bag straps come straight out of the body of the bag – this moves the weight of the bag out from the body. putting pressure on the shoulders.

A simple change in design pulls the weight of a bag close to the body, allowing the body to support the weight more fully.

Most traditional bag designs are arranged to push the weight away from the body. By hanging the straps straight down to the sides of the bag, it becomes a weight that pulls on your hand or on your shoulders. What we know from dancing and from Martial Arts is that weight can be distributed across the hips and across the back – spreading the load and working with how the body moves to carry the weight as you walk or ride. You can see this design also with framed backpacks, which use a belt to carry the weight at the hips. but the daily commuter or day traveler doesn’t really want to carry that kind of pack.  Every other avocation has a specialized piece of gear for carrying stuff. If you are a climber or a cyclist or a surfer – there are bags for you. Bags that are designed for how people live when they aren’t on the crags or in the drops don’t really exist. Sure, there are bags for professionals and for urban adventurers – but their designs don’t really function. They might have style, but they don’t have function that works the way your day works.

To design a bag for the commuter and the day traveler is to think first about the spaces they will be in and the kind of transit they might use. Bike. Train. Bus.  Walking. And then to think about where they will be: The office. The Gym. Home. Dancing. What you need to carry – how you need to carry it, and how to do it without wearing you out.

This is the goal of Sidgl’s design team – to make bags you notice because they are beautiful, not because they are uncomfortable.

About Ben Trissel

Ben is the Founder of Sidgl, 4th generation craftsman and designer that believes in thoughtful design, sustainable manufacturing and functional beauty. Sidgl makes handcrafted bags that are designed to look good, feel good and above all function well.

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