When you buy a pair of pants — you want them to fit. When you buy a shirt, shoes, gloves, socks — you want them to fit.
So why do so many people not care that their bag fits.
Most people carry a bag — which makes sense in the context of a bag — it’s a giant pocket — an appendage for stuff.
A detachable kangaroo pouch.
Have you ever noticed how people carry a bag? How a bag hangs off a shoulder? How the bag bounces on ones hip?
I Felt Their Pain
Before I began Sidgl — when I was busy daydreaming about functional design and art projects — I was hanging out at a bus stop waiting for someone.
While standing there, I watched people getting on and off the city bus. I first noticed, and sympathized with the crowd.
I remembered what it was like to lurch around and bounce off people on crowded city transit.
I remembered the lack of eye contact.
I remembered the sanctuary in the oasis of a book or an iPhone — eyes plastered to the floor or ceiling.
And everyone carried a bag.
An Awkward Fit
Technical back packs, swag bags, stylish purses, laptop bags.
All of these bags loaded and awkward.
Years of martial training have made me sensitive to posture, so I watched how bodies slumped or hunched around their bags. Between the loaded bag and the crowded bus, the bags became a terrible and transparent weight.
A lump unconsciously carried — the weight endured.
The Cyclist Conundrum
Bicycle commuters faced a different challenge.
The weight of the bag can throw off the riders balance — or can swing from the back to the front unexpectedly. Bike commuters have mastered a move where the elbow is always ready to catch and push a bag back to its place.
I knew all of this — I had experienced all of this.
And in the middle of my design daydreams, I had this thought: What if you could carry something beautifully designed into this space — what if someone carried a beautiful bag onto this bus, and it acted like good design does — giving eyes a place to rest for a moment.
You could make the world a little kinder just by this act.
When I designed my first bag, I wanted to solve this problem. The first bag I made did not solve any problems, but it made me start asking questions.
WHAT did I need to carry? — What was the stuff I carried every day. Did the load change depending on the day? What were my context shifts?
WHERE was I going? Was it just from home to the office and back? Or was I going somewhere after work. At the time, I was training a lot, so I was often going from home to work and then to the gym.
WHO was I going to see in the day? What were my social and professional interactions? Frequently my day started with a team meeting.
HOW was I getting to all of these places? Public transit? Bicycle? Car? In a week, it could be all three.
CONTEXT SHIFT. I used this phrase a lot. A context shift is moving from one environment to another — say from a bicycle to a meeting. Or work to the gym.
IDENTITY — in each of these contexts, our identity changes somewhat — from Urban Cyclist, to Professional to Tango Dancer—we transition from one identity to the next as my environment changes.
The details are details. They make the product. The connections, the connections, the connections. It will in the end be these details that give the product its life.
— Charles Eames
As I was designing, I was thinking through all of these points.
In book design, the paramount of the art is making something that is transparent — where the selection of type, page size, line length, etc adds up to something that skillfully transmits the written word directly to the reader’s mind.
A well designed book can be beautiful, but in that beauty is it’s function of disseminating the content directly to the reader.
But Does It Look Good
When designing a bag, taking this design aesthetic into consideration, I had to think: A light load carries differently than a heavy load.
You can carry a light bag one part of the day, and a heavily loaded bag later in the day.
How do you design a bag that makes these differences disappear — that the bag will be comfortable under light load as well as under heavy load? How does the carriers body react?
Here is a simple science: friction.
If you spread a material out over a large surface, you can create a surface tension. Friction will allow the material to adhere to the larger surface.
In judo, you do not hoist your opponent up and throw them — you spread them out across your body as you move — you allow that surface tension to do the work and the throws become effortless.
How Do You Feel
Spread the load across the back. Let the shape of the back cradle the load.
A smaller person can drag a larger person down by hanging off their neck. Think about the stress — arms wrapped around your neck, and the weight of a body pulling against you just through gravity, unbalancing you.
Why would you then put a bag around your neck if it is going to hang away from your body.
Just thinking about it makes my neck sore.
If the bag rests on your hip, if the bag integrates into your structure, then a heavy load becomes lighter.
If you can change how you carry a bag depending on the weight of the bag — from a briefcase, to a shoulder bag to a backpack, then the bag can adapt to the carrier instead of the other way around.
Too Much Tech, Not Enough Style
High tech bags do this kind of thing well.
I remember my first technical pack — a Gregory internal frame pack. The frame could be bent to the shape of my body — the components of the larger bag could be carried as separate packs. It was awesome for a month in the mountains — then you come back to the city.
It’s not the sort of bag I want to carry into a meeting.
Whether we are conscious of this fact or not, whether we care about this fact or not — when you walk into a meeting with other professionals, and you need to make an impression, how you dress matters.
If you walk into the meeting with a bag that looks like what a student would carry, or a mountain climber, this has an impact.
Style has an impact.
When we read, we recognize the impact a font has by how readily we recognize words.
We also recognize how someone thinks by how they put themselves together, whether we acknowledge it or not, we all wear a uniform.
Anti-fashion is fashion.
Finding The Sweet Spot
The sweet spot of design is making a bag that fulfills these three goals.
DURABILITY – The bag has the durability of that Gregory pack (I still use it, 30 years later).
TIMELESS – The timelessness of design that avoids trends.
COMFORT – The functionality to carry any load comfortably.
These are my goals.
The real questions are: Does it solve a problem? Is it serviceable? How is it going to look in ten years?
A bag shouldn’t have to be carried — it should fit.
It should fit the carriers body, and it should fit their lifestyle and it should fit their aesthetics.
- Style, Comfort, Accessibility and Personal Expression - December 5, 2017
- Improvements to the Art Bag - September 19, 2017
- Fit Matters: Design As An Extension of The Self - June 30, 2017
- A Tale of Two Bags - June 25, 2017
- Designing for the MVP – Backpack Edition - March 19, 2017
- The Consumers Role in a Sustainable Marketplace - February 28, 2017
- When an Opportunity Is Masked As a Problem - February 21, 2017
- The Big Book of Sustainable (What Does Sustainable Mean) - February 11, 2017
- Painting In The Wild With My Plein Air Portable Art Studio (30 Days In Italy) - August 30, 2016
- Towards a More Sustainable Company. - June 13, 2016