How to design a bag?
How to design a bag?
Are you about to design your first bag and don't know where to start? In this post you will learn the first steps and everything you have to take into account if you are facing your first design project for a bag or accessory of any kind.
I'm going to share with you everything I wish I had known before designing my first bag, things I learned with some years of experience, and some mistakes along the way.
Whether it's for your own brand, for a particular client or to present in a corporate team, this guide will give you clarity on what to consider when designing and what mistakes to avoid in order to get results that meet the needs of a particular user and can be sold in the marketplace.
Because design is not just about drawing, it is about finding the solution to a problem by creating a beautiful, functional and saleable object or garment.
Where to start?
Photo by Green Chameleon
As with all design projects, we must always start from a Brief. The brief is the guide that we have to respect and where the problem that we have to solve appears in detail, that is to say, what we have to design and for whom and on what dates we have to deliver the finished work.
Even if we are designing a bag for ourselves, for a cousin or for our own brand, it is important to have a written guide of these guidelines because it will help us not to disperse our imagination, to think in an orderly way, to take into account economic limitations to be able to sell the bag we are going to design, to comply with deadlines and thus gain experience to be able to face a professional brief assigned by a company in the future.
An example of a basic brief to design a bag or accessory would be:
- Project name: “Urban Bag 2022”
- Brand style: Cool, urban, practical, unisex
- Theme of inspiration: Space travel
- User: Male 27 years old, German. Creative.
- Problem to solve: Design of a messenger bag style with capacity for a 13” MacBook pro, convertible into a backpack.
(the premises to work are taken from the moodboard developed from the inspirational theme)
- Colors: blue, black, white
- Shapes: organic,
- Textures: smooth, rough
- Abstract premises: spaciousness, freedom, purity
Production cost restrictions:
- Selling price ceiling: €200
- Sketch delivery date: within 30 days
- Final design delivery date: within 45 days
- Delivery date of first prototype: 90 days
Other premises to take into account:
- All materials used in the final design must be eco-friendly
Before designing, do your research
Photo by Andrew Neel
I know it sounds tempting to try to design the perfect bag that everyone will want to buy, but the truth is that if we try to please everyone on the planet with the same design, in the end we won't be making that someone in particular will love our product.
That's why I want to expand on one of the most important points of the Brief before starting to design, the research of the user or target customer for whom we will design.
As we have already noticed, it is not the same to design for ourselves than for a 50-year-old businessman with good purchasing power, for a teenage rock fan who needs a shoulder bag to go to concerts, or for a mother of 3 children who needs a multipurpose bag for everyday use.
Everyone has different needs and tastes.
I have a theory that a bag is the synthesis of the user's personality. That is why it is so important to know the person for whom we are designing.
Knowing what our customer is like, what is important to him or her, what kind of details he or she appreciates or what he or she expects to feel when seeing our product, will allow us to create the perfect bag for this project and help us to make decisions throughout the design process.
User, style, personality
Photo by Artem Beliakin
The personality, the age, the context in which he/she lives, will allow us to imagine that person using the bag we are going to design and ask ourselves questions such as:
- Age and occupation:
what accessories do they need to carry inside the bag (this determines for example the format and number of pockets the bag should have).
- Occasion of use:
is it a bag for daily use? how many times a day will they open and close the bag? (this makes us wonder, for example, whether we should use strong fasteners that will withstand a lot of constant opening and closing or invest in good velcro).
If our users are practical people, they may not want to have so many pockets, but they may want a carabiner to hook their keys and find them quickly when they get home.
- Special occasion use:
Is the bag for a special occasion? If we are designing a clutch to be used for a gala evening at the MET, we have a greater freedom of choice of materials and can perhaps choose more expensive materials to make it.
- Purchasing power:
This is a decisive factor to consider before starting to design. The price range that our client is willing to pay will determine from our choice of materials, production costs, level of details, quality and design of each of the parts of the bag.
We cannot design a bag in which the sale price ends up being 1500 dollars when our user would only be willing to pay a maximum of 300.
If the estimated sale price of the bag is not established in the Brief, we will have to investigate where this person buys, how much the other accessories they use cost, how much a bag of similar characteristics is selling for the competition and with this information set the estimated price that the user would be willing to pay.
A useful exercise is to imagine the user as if we were watching them in their daily life using the bag. Think about what their day is like, how they move, see them opening and closing the bag, putting in and taking out personal items and we can even imagine with what clothes they would combine this accessory.
We should know this person as well as our best friend or brother.
The more details we know about him or her, the easier it will be for us to design that product that satisfies his or her needs, expectations and manages to surprise and make him or her fall in love.
The briefing usually specifies the style premises we have to respect, that is, the style of the brand we are designing for, the specific user profile and whether the design we are going to make is part of a particular collection.
Once all this has been established, we are going to make a moodboard with images that inspire us as a collage from which we are going to extract the premises on which we will work on our design.
That is to say, from it we will extract: colours, textures, shapes and abstract premises that are the sensations that the final product should transmit, such as "comfort", "seduction", "strength", "extravagance", which will depend on the theme from which we are drawing inspiration.
If you are interested in knowing more about where to look for inspiration, how to create a moodboard, and how to extract the premises to design, leave me a comment and I will do a post in the future expanding more on this topic.
Brainstorming and Sketching
Undoubtedly one of the most fun parts of the process. This is when we let our imagination fly, connect with our target client and start to create the first lines on paper. The first sketches are undoubtedly the most difficult, but once we get the momentum, the ideas start to flow.
It is important to take into account not only the needs of our user but also the style of the brand we are designing for and the premises established in the Briefing.
Should the bag be urban in style? Should the design have only curved lines to give a sense of simplicity and practicality? Is the brand we are designing for known for having some surprising detail in every garment or accessory it produces? Questions like these arise in the brainstorming and sketching phase.
If we are working with a team or for a company it is important to show our moodboard, the premises and the first sketches in order to get feedback from the team or client who has commissioned us before moving forward and to know if our work is going in the right direction.
There is nothing more frustrating than having a super advanced project and being told to start from scratch because there is no agreement on the vision of the style of the collection or some of the basic premises simply do not like the client or company we are designing for.
Never be afraid to ask questions, it is better to have everything more than clear from the beginning and make a complete briefing of the work we have to do and thus save us headaches in the future.
We must also not forget at this stage to take into account the maximum price at which our bag can be sold and the tools we have available for making the bag or if we are going to send the bag to a factory we need to know what kind of machines and tools they have and have seen examples of the products they make.
A good designer knows all the production and manufacturing processes and needs to know all this information to be able to fill in an order form to a factory and make design decisions at any stage of production.
Although in the future we will always send our production to a factory, there is no learning process more enriching than making a bag from scratch ourselves, from the initial idea to the final finishing and polishing.
The more we know about processes, materials, tools and patterns, the more design tools we will have in our brains to solve problems.
How many sketches should be made?
If it is not specified in the brief and we don't have to present them to a team, the number of sketches is subjective.
For example, I love to take one or two A2 size sheets and fill them with design variations, although I may end up developing sketch number 3, I like to make options and more options to see how far the idea can go.
From all the sketches we made we are going to choose a design to build the prototype of our final bag.
Surely when we face the making of the prototype in the different stages (paper prototype, muslin prototype and prototypes of the bag with the final materials) the "final" design will have variations to polish imperfections and make it more comfortable, more functional or more "beautiful".
When I was designing for my brand or for myself, when choosing the final design, I was guided by my instinct, that is to say, I worked on the idea until a design spoke to me, it made me smile when I saw it and I didn't feel the need to correct anything. It's a bit of an abstract way of working, but it's not all about technique, we also have to trust our intuition.
When working with a team it is important to meet and discuss the final design before ordering the patterns and prototypes. At this stage I recommend showing all the work done in the sketching stage explaining how all the premises of the Briefing were taken into account and presenting around 4 final design options for the team to choose the right one.
I recommend not to present too many choices of final designs because people tend to get quite dizzy when given too many to choose from. As a personal experience I could say that 4 designs is the magic number.
Once the exciting first stage is over, the design of the bag, an even more exciting stage begins, the prototyping stage, that is, making that idea into a real object.
With all these tips in mind, we can be sure that the bags we are going to make or ask a company to make will be as close as possible to the target customer in terms of functionality, design and cost.
If you want to learn more about how to make the patterns for different types of bags I recommend the book Handbag designer by Emily Blumenthal where she has basic moulds for 15 classic bags ordered by level of difficulty from beginner to advanced and she also has very good advice on how to start a handbag business with marketing and sales tips.
Have you already designed your first bag?, did you dare to make it? and what difficulties did you encounter in the process? I would love to know your opinion! Leave me a comment!
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