Tag Archives: design thinking

The Book Bag spring collection Issuu is out now!

3 Feb

A book-like book for the book-like Book Bag…


What’s [the] Issuu?

This blog is now on Issuu!

Haha okok sorry for the oh-too-many “This blog is now on ____!” posts… It’s just darn fun to play with all these cool, new online tools to spice up the blogging experience (and the reading experience too!).

Issuu is a digital publishing website which let you upload and share print materials on the Internet. Embedding books, magazines, or articles on your website/blog gives it a cool, page-flipping effect like so many of the recent e-books on the iPad. It’s also for reading digital publications, like magazines and comics. Something like the Facebook for digital publishing, I guess… I love how all these new tools are based on the freemium model, so that poor guys like me could use them for free and have a cool blog post.


Latest Issuu of the Book Bag lite out now!

Well… meet the Book Bag lite:

As you can see, it’s really a ‘lite’ version of the original Book Bag, with no RFID technology, no unusual ‘floating’ hands to pique public curiosity, no “open book look” to give users the look of carrying around half-pen books as if they were in the midst of reading…

I’m not bitter, I really am not. Hahah.

The main idea is still there – it looks like a book in order to be used like a book, i.e. ‘borrowed’ (users no longer have to borrow the Book Bag lite as part of their loan quota, since there’s no RFID tags) when borrowing other books, ‘returned’ when returning books. So I guess in essence, the Book Bag concept comes down to being a natural part of the reader’s reading experience journey.


What’s next?

So I was wondering how to go on from here, now that this project is coming to a close. After all, this blog really was a project-based account of a design journey, so when the journey ends, what happens next……? I think in the following few posts, I’ll be reviewing the design journey, what were some of the things I enjoyed, what I found challenging, anything worthwhile learnt – stock-take, so to speak.

After all that, what happens depends on how the contest results pan out…. if there are positive results, perhaps this blog will get to live a little longer? Seriously, I’m still not sure about the lifespan of this blog really, and what to do with it…

Any suggestions? 😉



This blog is now on Flickr.

8 Jan Image inspiration from Flickr. iPhone app-like design by bookbagdesigner. Hand-drawn graphics from The Rapid eLearning Blog.

This blog wants to take over the world, one social media platform at a time!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The Deep Dive

6 Jan

This video is seriously inspiring, again from my favourite design firm IDEO! The creative process behind design and design thinking is made a lot clearer with this show-&-tell. I like it that the object in question was the ubiquitous shopping cart, which falls in that same category as the shopping bag in terms of how common and ‘everyday’ it is. Before I dive into brainstorming and ideation of design concepts for the library bag, this is one powerful adrenaline shot for the coming creative work…..

Library ethnography 101, part I

4 Jan Image from www.businessweek.com

Sometimes people are the best inspiration……


One of my design thinking heroes whom I had already introduced in an earlier post, Tim Brown from the renowned design firm IDEO, mentions this about design thinking,

“Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.”

After so much online musing and research, it’s time to get started on the “people’s needs” aspect of design thinking. Design thinking advocates an interesting method of ethnographic observation of the human user, through the open-mindedness of an anthropologist, in order to really see how people behave in their natural settings. As we know from the Hawthorne effect, people may say one thing but do another thing when caught in context, thus ethnographic observation helps to dig deeper into customer behaviour and minimises any armchair presumptions we may have about why people act they way they do.

While the tech and design worlds are still finding it difficult to agree on the power of ethnographic research as a serious discipline for innovation (see Don Norman’s controversial article, and further discussions [1, 2] on Business Week), I believe there’s still value in observing how library users go about their activities in the library – which translates to more personal experiences and visual material for musing and inspiration for conceptualising the new library bag.

I’m also pretty excited to get re-acquainted with those participant observational skills and methods I learnt in university through my anthropology modules. What an interesting way to bridge what we had studied in school with real-life problems! Not forgetting to mention that there’s also an ‘almost-wrong’ kind of voyeuristic excitement from hiding behind bookshelves to ‘spy’ on people, which I won’t explain too much here… hahah.

The ethnographic excursion starts!

So off I went to the Central Library. Thankfully the book check-out counters were located close to some bookshelves which made for good spying fortress. Next, find a book to ‘pretend-read’ while discretely observing library users check their books out. Then quickly jot down observations on notepad hidden on bookshelf. Resume ‘reading’ posture to observe. Wash, rinse, repeat till satisfied. But why the extra effort at pretense? Just so that people are unaware and can behave at their truest – remember the Hawthorne effect? But also because I’m having so much fun being almost 007-ish…haha.

I took a few minutes to get into the groove of observing and noting, and very soon, observational details were coming in fast and furious. It’s almost strange to self-witness that, since this scene (people checking books out) was something I see so often (I visit the library pretty often) and I’m pleasantly surprised to be able to pick out many facts to note which will help scope the design of the library bag. I split the observations into 3 categories: 1) People, 2) Books, 3) Bags.

I found that bringing along one’s own tote bag solely to carry the loaned books was already a common practice, especially with the ladies. Mothers with their kids are most definitely seen with their own tote bags, as they usually borrow stacks of children’s books. Otherwise, most other users stuffed the books into their own handbags/backpacks/slingbags. The ones who walked off with book in hand and no bag were mostly men. The users who brought their own bags even used them to carry books around the library while browsing.

Really, books of ALL sizes were loaned, including magazines and CDs.  These days with these other forms of media available for loan, the new library bag would have to be designed for these items as well. Children’s books, which are a hit with mothers with kids (they borrow stacks of it), are usually thinner but in unusual sizes.

What materials made up the tote bags people brought along? Polyfabric tote bags seemed most popular, especially the ones used for groceries since they are built for holding heavy items. Otherwise people used shopping bags of hybrid paper/plastic quality. Many of the bags people brought along were also pretty fashionable and well-designed (not your average sloppy plastic bag) – a sign that people are more conscious of how bags looked with them.

Other observations
Receipts – many people fiddled with the receipts, finding all sorts of places to keep them (folded into wallets, slotted in between pages of the book, or simply tossed into the bag). Some even printed individual receipts for individual books, a practice which I confess to doing as well. Why? ‘Cause it’s much easier to check on the return due date if each book had its own receipt, than to hunt down the correct book and page. But the slotting the receipts into books also made many fall out of the books, even right after people had borrowed them.

Space – many users lingered on at the counter after the checking out the books, in order to bag the books properly, stuff them into backpack, re-arrange things in backpack and then stuff them in, fiddle with receipts and folded them and took out wallets/books to keep them. So having enough space for them to do all that was crucial – thankfully the check-out counters at the Central Library were widely spaced apart, allowing for this ‘transitional’ space.


So that was pretty productive for a start! More to come next – spying “thoughtless acts” (no, not the ugly type) during book drop and other natural library user mannerisms.


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (or bag)

27 Dec

book bag So it is.


I came across this poster while at the library one day and was curious. How ubiquitous an object for a design project! What an interesting challenge it would be to design for something so commonplace and ‘normal’ that sometimes it’s almost ‘invisible’ in our everyday lives.

Though having said that, the “brown bag” is an almost blank slate which has a lot of room for a designer’s input in terms of form and function. There’s some striking similarity I can draw between the design of a brown bag, and the design philosophy in an inspiring design book I read recently called Super Normal. It’s frankly quite refreshing to read about how the designers Naoto Fukasawa and Jasper Morrison are aiming to bring design back to the roots of “improving” the “man-made environment” and deepening the simple and beautiful (“normal”) relationships certain commonplace objects have with us in our everyday lives:

“As designers we can aim at achieving the Super Normal by being less concerned with visual aspects of an objects character, by attempting to anticipate the objects likely impact on the atmosphere and how it will be to live with… perhaps the continuation of a good relationship that has been around for a long time is better than anticipating something new. I think maybe the moment this hits us is what Super Normal means. “

So already there’s a lot of food for thought for this design challenge. I’m also excited at the prospect of applying some of the techniques and methods I had learnt about design thinking – the ethnographic study and deep empathy for the user, rapid prototyping, cross-fertilisation of ideas with seemingly non-related industries, synergistic collaboration between engineers, designers, users, manufacturers, etc etc… Though without the benefit of a “hot team”, I can already envision roping in friends as a dynamically-knitted team collaborating through Facebook and over dinners. What fun! I’m truly excited now!

Other design criteria outlined by NLB included physical specifications of 20cm x 30cm (which is about A4-sized), and most interestingly, that the bag has to encourage users to return the bag after use. That would add on a extra tasty texture to the design challenge!

Can’t wait to get started!