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Research: to create, you must copy and combine

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Research: to create, you must copy and combine


It’s Friday again! This week we will take a quick look at the current results of our research for the Carry-on. It’s far from over, so if you didn’t fill out our quick survey yet, please do so here. Thanks!

This week we will also lay down the main features that will be included in the first prototype. But before that, I wanted to touch the topic of research and why it’s an important part of any creative task.

When I say research, I don’t mean plagiarism or stealing. This is the first thing that most people think of when you start talking about researching for a creative task. Heck, I used to think the same thing. Isn’t creativity that gift given skill that only the chosen ones possess? Yes, some people are more gifted and have genetic advantages when it comes to this stuff. But for the most part, it’s really all about knowledge. And when people consider themselves not creative, it’s often just a shortage of knowledge and perspective. And this is where research helps.

Basics of creative thinking

Design is all about problem solving. Finding a way to solve a problem better or simply in a different way is what we often refer to as creativity. To solve a problem, you must find and connect different ideas. Innovation happens when you connect ideas that haven’t been connected before. You can watch the video below to get a better idea:

It’s all a remix

When artists talk about influences, this is often what they mean. They find a new way to connect two previously unrelated ideas and create something completely new. Kirby Ferguson’s “Everything Is a Remix” explores this idea in a fun and interesting way. If there is one thing you should know about how creativity and innovation works – it’s this video.

To find good solutions, you need to do your homework

Nothing is created in a vacuum, the broader your knowledge is, the better chance you have to find something useful and innovative.

  1. Constantly improve general knowledge and understanding of how the world and people work

Reading books (wish I did more of this), watching movies, enjoying music and anything else that is not related to the thing you are designing, all of it will help to find interesting solutions as well as develop your own style.

  1. Research similar work

Research is different. It’s done with every new design project. You look at what’s out there, what people like, what people don’t like, what works and what doesn’t. You begin to get a sense of what’s going on, you notice a pattern, you get ideas, and most importantly, you save time.

Let’s say you would want to design a bicycle.

Would you:

Start from scratch, think about whether the wheels need to be round, whether it needs a steering bar, is a chain/rubber belt needed to propel the bike?

Or would you:

Realize that all bicycles have two wheels, a frame, a chain/rubber belt, accept this is the most basic shape of a bike, and instead think of a unique thing to bring to this basic shape?

Research confirms your assumptions about a given design or shows that objects like it is done in a completely different way. Because a lot of people have done the basic thinking long before you were even alive, you don’t need to.

Research also can help you have a breakthrough. You might see an idea that doesn’t really work in some object, but because of the way you want to design yours, that feature will be finally used in a way that makes sense and adds value. Know what’s out there and you will see what’s missing.

It’s necessary, and we do it before designing any bag. The carry-on is no exception.

Researching the carry-on world

Review Process

Carry-on backpacks are designed to do the same thing, to ease your travel. But every company has their own take on it. Brand’s aesthetics, materials used and target customer, all determine the way a carry-on backpack looks and functions.

In order to get a better idea what works and what doesn’t we can look at the things that others are doing and find patterns, similarities and differences. Similar to how we classified basic/main and secondary features in the concept stage, we classify the most widely used features into three categories. This is real world data, which differs from the concept stage where we just made assumptions and guesses. 

Category 1. Widely used features. Features that are very common across all carry-on backpacks.

  1. Wide opening and boxy shape. This is a carry-on bag that is designed primarily to be used for air travel, so to maximise the carry capacity most bags are boxy and try to fit into these dimensions 55 x 35 x 20 cm (22 x 14 x 8 inches), which are used by major airlines across the globe. Wide opening, also known as a clamshell, allows you to pack the bag as a suitcase. This makes packing and getting out things easier as you don’t need to empty the bag completely when looking for stuff at the bottom.
  2. Laptop compartment. This feature almost always appear in these bags. It allows you to store a laptop without extra protective case and makes it easy to remove the laptop even when the bag is full.
  3. Small pockets. A place to store your phone, wallet or passport. It is usually placed somewhere at the top or the side panel of the backpack.
  4. Sternum strap. Also known as chest strap, that helps to stabilise a heavy load on your back.

Category 2. Used by some. Features that are implemented by some companies, but not by others.

  1. Outside compression straps. Due to boxy nature and a large capacity some companies are using compression straps on the sides of the backpack in order to keep the weight from sliding around when the bag is half full. This works, but it also leaves a lot of dangling straps on the outside, that can get stuck on things. The benefit you can always attach something to it.
  2. Removable/hide away back straps. This is a feature that allow you to hide back straps in order to use the bag as a duffel or messenger bag.
  3. Organisation pockets. These pockets are used for various miscellaneous items, like pens, chargers, etc.
  4. Water bottle pocket. A small pocket on the outside, big enough to fit your water bottle.

Category 3. Rarely used. Features that are used by a small number of companies.

  1. Water resistant zippers or/and rain cover. Most bags are made of water resistant materials, but as an extra protection few companies include a rain cover or add water resistant zippers.
  2. Hip belt. This feature is widely used on hiking bags and help to carry heavy weight. On a carry-on backpacks this feature less common.
  3. Lockable zippers. This gives you an option to add a lock on your zippers.

Based on our research, as expected, a quick and easy way to store your electronics are by far the most important feature. Enough space and a wide opening for easy packing are also important. So, nothing new there. From what we’ve seen, expandable volume is also a nice touch.

Interestingly, lockable zippers are also highly important to a lot of people. But this could be interpreted just as a general requirement for some safety measures for your essential items (passport, cash, and so on), which could be accomplished with a secure stash instead. It would be great if someone could comment on this.

In contrast, it seems that the widely used sternum strap is not that important to a lot of people. A removable hip belt is by far the least required feature.

Other features are highly debatable, with most of them swinging towards the lower end of the majority.

Our plan for the first prototype

We are already making sketches and will present them next week. A week after that (22nd September), we should have the first prototype ready for critique and further refinement. With the first prototype, we will try to test out some things that might or might not stay. So far, this is what the first prototype will include:

  1. Laptop compartment
  2. Quick access pockets
  3. Hide-away straps
  4. Sternum strap
  5. Expandable volume
  6. “The Rodney”. A secure stash for a true 007 (this is a maybe for the first prototype, we’ll see how it goes)