Tag Archives: shape

Fail early, succeed faster = prototyping

10 Jan

Play with prototyping, as early as possible. Go low-fi. Test it out. Ask others to use it. Get feedback. Learn from mistakes quickly. Reiterate. Wash, rinse, repeat till success.


Prototyping is one of my favourite stages of the design process! There’s something very real about working with your hands, feeling textures and handling objects requiring high dexterity (no, typing on keyboard doesn’t count!). Sometimes I wonder if this ‘need’ to feel and work on something tangible with our hands originates from our cavemen days when being able to work with raw materials of stone and wood meant survival on a day-to-day basis. But anyway, I digress – my anthropological mind speaking again.

So it wasn’t too difficult getting out a first design prototype! A quick online search for the right images and templates (offered free, of course!), then collage, print, fold, paste and voila! My first prototype is up! Albeit a mini version, it looks so cute on its own! I’m quite proud of it actually! And convenient to carry around and show friends to seek feedback. Pictures here.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


*Notes on design:

A shopping/paper bag is similar to a book in terms of its box-like, cuboid shape. Thus, the Book Bag will follow the shape and look of a book, in 2 modes for comparison – ‘open-‘ and ‘closed book’ mode. For a start, the mini version will be made in only the open book mode.

Typical paper bag templates are offered freely and easily online. A simple template I referred to is here. But at the same time, I also wondered if there are more interesting ways to construct the structure of the paper bag, in order to lend more strength and manufacturing ease. This origami gift bag purse tutorial was pretty fun to make – folded entirely out of just 1 sheet of paper without any cuts or seams needed, it sounds like a pretty solid structure. But unfortunately the base of this origami bag was only a sheet thick, unlike the typical

paper bag which has several layers folded and glued together for strength and durability. This is important to the strength and durability of the bag since most of the books’ weight will gravitate downwards onto the base of the bag, and people will be putting the bag down mostly on its base – thus I think having those extra layers and with strong gluing, the typical paper bag’s base would be potentially stronger than the origami one.

I’m also liking the Instructables website a lot as people can get together to share DIY tutorials and tips on making EVERYTHING, except bombs and nuclear reactors of course. I learnt so many techniques and tips for making a paper bag here!

To handle or not to handle
The issue of having handles for the bag is a tricky one. On one hand, having those ‘hanger’ string type of handles makes carrying the bag easier. On the other hand, using a ‘letterbox-like slot/hole’ type of handle cut out from the bag itself is requisite for incorporating the interactive design element of the bag. The pressure points and textural feel of both types of handles are more or less the same; only the ways in which one can carry the bag differs between the 2 types of handles. The differences would probably be minimal, so I decided on the slot type of handle. But this debate points out the need to get feedback on the handle, later on during testing.

Credits go to the artists at deviantart, dafont and stock xchng [1, 2, 3] for some of the key images. This makes prototyping much faster and easier! Can you see how the design mimics our natural behaviour in which books are typically held, carried, left on the table, while reading?  The ‘floating hand’ is a curious, attention-seeking piece of imagery which [visually/psychologically] ‘yearns’ to be completed by a human user. Once the bag is carried, the picture is complete – the ‘always-ready-for-reading’ open book is now held by the user. When we leave the bag lying down flat on the table, it’s as if we are taking a break from reading and the book is left open for us to return to it. When the bag had served it’s purpose of carrying and gets folded, it look even more like a book – check out the picture in the slideshow when I shelved the folded Book Bag together with other books – it looks exactly like one of the others! This is how the Book Bag ‘behaves’ like a book, that bags other books! This visceral-reflective depths of the Book Bag design is what really appeals to me personally!


What do you think? Which part of the design is calling to you? More to come – actual-sized prototyping and user testing.