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Carry-on design concept [PART 1]

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Carry-on design concept [PART 1]

One of the best things you can say about a bag, or any design, is that it just feels right. The way it looks, the way it acts, or the way it sounds. Everything, for the most part, seems to be where it needs to be and how it has to be. It doesn’t make you ask why is something here? You understand them and what they are all about, no questions needed.


Does a paperclip raise any questions?


This clarity satisfies our primal need for order and understanding. We feel more confident and at ease when we know what’s going on. It’s a strong feeling that can go both ways. And when people say something feels right this is part of what they mean. To quote Dieter Rams:

Good design is understandable. It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.

In other words, it makes sense.

There are many factors that contribute to this feeling of completeness along the design process, but the first and arguably the most important step for any creative endeavor is a good design concept –  a general outline of what is the thing you are designing and how it should work.


The Picasso's bull series shows how a complex idea (a bull) can be distilled into a simple shape. It's a simple concept of a bull's form.


A good concept gives clarity and purpose to design. Without it, you can get lost in your own creative mind and drift around before you either give up altogether or come up with something like this:



"The Homer"


Okay, this is extreme. In reality, it much more subtle. But it even the little things can make a huge difference. So, the first thing to ask before attempting to design anything is:

What are we designing?

Seems obvious, but this is where it’s easy to get confused. The “what” should never be a feature, appearance, or any other singular thing. It’s a holistic picture of what (in our case, a carry-on) the object should be and how it should work. Instead of a “carry-on with a cool opening and many different pockets”, it should be something more like a “Travel bag for a 2-4 day trip”.

In other words, it’s all about the problem/goal that the object will help people to either solve or help with. As with any creative task, the better understanding of what you’re making you have, the better off you and the design will be. A “travel bag for a 2-4 day trip” can be wide range of things. A carry-on style backpack for a 2-4 day business trip is a more clear goal. The features/appearance will be the solutions you will come up when you further explore and develop that concept. They should never be an end in themselves.

Knowing what to design also means knowing what NOT to design. Therefore, the second thing we ask:

What are we NOT designing?

Having a clear goal will help you make the right decisions when adding something, while the boundaries will help you stay on track and not get distracted and add something that is not in-line with the design's goal.

Some constraints come naturally –  what materials you can use, what is technologically possible, how much money and time you have. But your imagination doesn’t really have them, so you need to give it some. It's always tempting to add more, but ask any writer or other creative professional, and they will probably say that it's just as important to know what to leave out.



The common remote is one example. Does it make sense? Well, no. Not if you use a smart tv with most settings and features located directly on the screen and a tv (cable) box with its own separate remote. Most would probably not mind fewer buttons.


At first, this might seem restrictive. Shouldn’t I just let my creativity guide me?

Yes, but with these simple questions you are not restricting yourself, you’re guiding your creative efforts to a specific destination. Without knowing where to go, you won’t go anywhere worthwhile. 

To make it easier to read, we divided this post into two parts. This was PART 1 of 2.


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