Tag Archives: design

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? ūüėČ



BBB = Book Bag bento

20 Jan

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” so said Leonardo da Vinci. ¬†And there’s nothing quite like a Japanese bento to showcase the beauty of sophisticated simplicity…


Stop press update

It always sounds so clich√©, but like they always tell you,”Always expect the unexpected…”¬†I should have bore in mind those very wise words, ’cause I almost died when I saw the latest update on the NLB website – they extended the deadline to 31 Jan 2011 after I submitted my package! After all those late nights and long hours…… Now somebody kill me……



It’s all in the packaging

OK, I’m recovered from the shock now.

It was fun, fun, fun all the way in the final stages of this Book Bag project, from doing the fashion shoot to designing a slideshow video for ‘selling’ the Book Bag. On top of that, I had also decided to supplement my e-submission with a package containing the physical hard-copies of the final prototype, a few product photos to go with the prototype, and a CD saved with all the design templates, slideshows.

Final submission title Final submission package Close-up of contents - CD, prototype, photos Wrapped and bounded for NLB!

The final package looks very hand-made and rather rough on the edges, really. It reminded me of those school art projects I used to submit, with lots of hand-written/-drawn stuff on cardboard – would this be deemed too “unprofessional” or “kiddy”? I wondered if I was better off actually leaving my submission to just digital format… If only I had more time to do up a really slick package for submission…

Here’s the slideshow and video I did for Book Bag ‘marketing’:


In the end, I decided to submit everything, bento box and all. I’d already done it, and what’s there to lose? Maybe there’s a slight organic beauty about the hand-made quality… hahaha I’m self-rationalising (again).

What do you think? Rustic cardboard charm or modernist slick?

What is the most book-like book?

17 Jan

It is about tapping on our collective visual memories, our cultural database of archetypes…


But a short digression first…

Well! I finally submitted the final designs and prototype to NLB for the “Brown Bag Design Contest‘! I manage to make the deadline, in email and hard-copy submissions. *phew. It’s a huge relief now that the stress of submission is over. A quick sneak preview of the final product – just for you…

Final submission package

Hard-copy submission of the Book Bag - CD and photos included!

I’ll get to blogging about this soon enough! First let me catch up on where I left off previously…about the making of the final design and prototype.


Pinning down the most book-like Book Bag

A close friend had commented (during my testing stage) that perhaps the generic “book” image used for the design could be changed to an actual book design which most people can relate to. Like say for children, the most easily-recognised book to them might be an Enid Blyton book cover, or Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book cover for children.

Which was a good point, because I would need the Book Bag to really resemble a book; to be the most ‘book-like’ in order for the ordinary man on the street to easily recognise the Book Bag for a book. ¬†This reminds me of my philosophy classes in university, where we talked about Plato’s metaphysical theory of Forms, where abstract, non-material ideal types exist as the highest and most fundamental kind of reality. Like the idea of a “book”. There’s many types of books – novels, dictionaries,¬†encyclopedia, coffee table books – but what is the concept of “book” which holds all these family of books together as “books”? Physical traits like paper, words printed on pages? Those traits could fit a magazine, not a book… Almost there but not really. Well, I don’t think I do justice to Plato here, but it points towards how we know things as things belonging to a family of things. Famed Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa asked the similar question in his namesake book,

“I wanted to design a chair-like chair, a table-like table… But this ‘likeness’ was something confined to the imagination, and I understood that it differed from person to person. Still, I wanted to design the kind of chair that when people looked at it, they said,’That’s a really chair-like chair.” If you ask people,”What exactly is chair-like?”, they don’t know, but if they see it, they can say, “Oh, that’s really chair-like”; this sensation is one that, as first glance, appears inconsistent. The reason why I wanted to design a chair-like chair is that I felt that, within this ‘chair-like’ sense, there was an element of reassurance. Perhaps it’s a nostalgic sensation. Designers and architects all design at least one chair. Their chair design is thus indicative of their identity. These chairs are not referred to as being ‘chair-like’, but as ‘whoever designed them-like’. So I thought that an anonymous chair was more likely to be thought of as ‘chair-like’. The idea of designing a chair to look like chair-like stemmed from a desire to break away from the ‘this is the chair so-and-so designed’ kind of mind set.”

So to echo his sentiments, it’s exactly that “element of reassurance”, that “nostalgic sensation”, the anonymity set within the imagination, which drives me to find that “Form” of the ‘book’. Which brings me back to the question: What is a “book”? What is the most “book-like” book? Especially to local Singapore?

I pondered. Searched. Asked around for ideas. Looked around under the sheets of bookstores and stock¬†image websites. And one image kept popping up everywhere – a hard-cover, rectangular, portrait-orientation, typically vintage-looking, and leather-bound book. So my initial hunch for going with a leather book¬†cover design as most “book-like”, as the one most generic book image which most people would recognise it and say, “Yes, that’s a book which looks most like a book.” The answer had come full circle. But not a wasted exercise though, because only through asking this question can I be really sure of the spirit of the design is accurate.


The making of

So…with firmer conviction, I ploughed on to finish up the final prototype of the Book Bag for the submission to the library. And added on a few extra useful touches inspired from my very initial ethnographic observation of library users.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


As you can see from the slideshow, there’s now the:

  • Outer clear-plastic pocket for keeping loan receipts – remember how my initial observations showed how library users fumbled with the receipts and found their own ways to keep them properly without losing them (in wallets, in between book pages, etc)? Now there’s a home for all those run-away slips of paper, and a highly prominent, visible and convenient place at that!
  • An inner CD pocket to snugly hold the CD you borrowed above ground level – to minimise impact shock on the fragile disc of plastic when carrying and putting down the Book Bag.
  • ‘Hidden’ instructions on the ‘page’ side of the Book Bag – in 3 simple steps (it’s really just 3, as the 4th step is to say there isn’t a step 4!), the users can read and understand how the Book Bag can be borrowed, used and returned.
  • A mock RFID tag (taken from an old book I bought from a past library sale) to demonstrate a possible position where the tag can be located.

I should really be using Tyvek ¬ģ ‘paper’ (Tyvek¬ģ is actually all recyclable plastic, which looks and feels like paper) for the final prototype, but it’s not easily found as bookstores don’t really stock them.¬†So I worked around it by using some good ol’ vanguard sheet, and pasting the A4-paper design prints onto the skeleton of vanguard sheet.¬†The accidental quality of using printed paper is the creases and wrinkles that comes with uneven glue spread underneath, which makes the book look even more authentic!


Next up: ‘Fashion’ shoot of the Book Bag, to illustrate how the Book Bag would look like when used in our daily lives. No more studio shots against plain white backgrounds – stay tuned to see the Book Bag go ‘live’!


This blog is now on YouTube.

12 Jan

Another social media platform devoured! Yum yum yum munch munch munch…


[Tune in to our channel by clicking on the TV.]



Beta karma

12 Jan

The virtuous cycle of prototyping, beta-testing, feedback & reiteration is part of enlightened product design, liberating us forward to an ultimate salvation from the hell of useless objects…


The holistic harmony of participatory co-design, & relations with the social work field

Armed with the mini prototype, I went around as many friends as I could to gather comments about the Book Bag. Design thinking methodology tries as much as possible to include users as early on as possible to co-design and co-create the product. This is one good way of ensuring that whatever goes out as a final product had already been accepted by customers, and thus less risk of investing in technology and marketing when it won’t ‘sell’.

This is one of the best parts I like about design thinking Рtrying to achieve a holistic balance between desirability by customers, business feasibility and technological viability. IDEO proposed this method in their Human-Centered Design Toolkit, a free innovation guide which they produced together with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for social enterprises and NGOs worldwide [you can download the free toolkit intro here.]

Source: Adapted from IDEO HCD Toolkit Intro


I’m a firm believer that for-profit business have lots to learn from such a framework built for not-for-profits, especially now. Often in the past, we can hear of not-for-profit organisations expressing some form of ‘business-envy’, and they try to emulate business systems and quantitatively measure the ‘market numbers’, which can get pretty difficult and tricky in the very different and human-centered social work field. I respect that both sides can and should learn from each other, but I believe consumers are increasingly seeking qualities which these traditional helping professions are really good at – empathy, customised help and care, focus on benefiting clients not system efficiency, and sharing resources through inter-organisational¬†collaboration.

Anyway, I digress again! Design thinking, combined with my passion and previous job in social work field, is juicing me a lot creatively!


Hear ALL about it!

I’m listing the comments gathered from my friends – I’d forgot who said what, so if you’re reading this and one of the comments belong to you, please stand up and comment on the comment!

  • Have 2 variations of the prototype to compare and choose, in order to get the most honest opinions. It’s just like the proverbial situation where the wife asks the husband whether he likes the dress, and he’s damned if he does and damned if he don’t. Better to have 2 so that people can state their preferences of one over another, and not have to criticise just one option (and thus potentially making things defensive or socially awkward).
  • Bag handles – opinions were mixed. Some preferred handles from years of shopping experience, some were okay with a slot-type handle.
  • Most expressed a curious interest at first look even before I said anything about the Book Bag.
  • Most liked the idea of integrating a book and a bag, and appreciated the aesthetics.
  • Most were skeptical about whether getting people to borrow it like a book can work.
  • Add-on ideas included instructions for use on the bag, incorporating some ‘reading’ on the opened pages itself.
  • Someone pointed out that only right-handers can complete the picture – something I didn’t realised! Since most people are right-handed, I’ll go for it! Moreover, when it comes to carrying bags, don’t we frequently switch hands when one hand is tired?


Book Bag beta version 1.2 and 1.3

So I quickly made some improvements and made full-sized prototypes. It ended up being pretty nostalgic process; of youthful primary school days during the 80s when we worked on “science projects”, using vanguard sheet, UHU glue, colourful ‘magic pens’, cutting, pasting, colouring…… It was strangely comforting getting re-aquainted with those activities again – so fun! If you have a keen eye, you’d realise that I made a mistake when scaling up the ‘floating’ hand – it’s too small! Haha…. it can be rectified easily but to capitalise on the mistake, I got my lovely niece to model her hand for the prototype – see how the picture gets completed through the human user? I made 2 versions )open book/portrait vs closed book/landscape) to compare and choose.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

So what do you think? Which one would you choose? More beta testing needed, this time in real time and place – the library!


Hot models at my place today.

12 Jan

Hahaha… nope. Sorry to disappoint, but not that kind of hot models. But I’m sure the subject header got your attention! ;P

Cheap tricks aside, here’s a preview of things to come…

Lo - fi home studio shoot!


This blog is now Xtranormal.

11 Jan

Broccoli Man tells Coffee Girl about the Book Bag, a new superzeroz side-kick to the Library Man. But someone’s going green about the Book Bag……

[Created on Xtranormal]