New Metaphors, New Models
Designing User-friendly Shopping Bags
If you are a short person, I believe you have probably undergone some unpleasant experiences with shopping bags you grabbed from the markets or grocery stores in the past already. As a consumer, I always think the design of shopping bags is not so user-friendly to short people. Although my height is not particularly short in mainstream standard, I, too, struggle in using shopping bags that are not “customized” for my height.
Some people might say, “What is the point of arguing with a shopping bag? At the end of the day, it will just be another bag in your basket. It has served its purpose and you got all the stuff you bought home.” Well yes people are not wrong, it is just another random shopping bag.
In many scenarios, shopping bag is often a tool or an agency that we use to contain things or carry stuff around. Instead of being an asset or art piece itself, its value is shown and confirmed only when it performs its utility or helps achieve bigger goals. Shopping bag alone does not render any meaning, significance, or aesthetics. But why does a trivial thing like shopping bag matter?
Let’s take a look at the drawing below:
As you can tell from the drawings above, depending on the heights of the persons, people’s physical responses to the same shopping bag differ.
A good design is a product with good affordances. Its convenience and practicality render its invisibility and seamlessness. In this case, a good shopping bag is a medium that is always ready to be used. When users (of different builds and heights) use it, they won’t feel the design is awkward or inconsiderate. I imagine shopping bag is designed in a way that it can adjust to consumers’ needs in different situations. While it displays its functionality to the greatest extent, it maintains a sense of aesthetic as an individual.
Designs of shopping bags vary from brands to brands. For example, some shopping bags have big and wide bodies with short handles, others have small and narrow bodies with long handles, etc. Whether consumers have pleasant experiences in carrying the goods around after shopping, the brands’ shopping bags in fact play an unnoticeable yet integral role. Trader Joe’s does a wonderful job in packing the products in the shopping bags for their customers at the cashiers — not only do they double bagged the goods, but they also utilize the space in the bags and arrange everything in order. In spite of its thoughtful post-consumption service, I must say I’m not totally agree with the design of its shopping bags. I understand the intention — to create more space for the goods — behind the design, but by making the bags longer and bigger doesn’t necessarily transform the bags into user-friendly products. When I hold the Trader Joe’s bags in hands, the bottoms of the bags almost touch the ground. If people of shorter heights hold the bags, the bags will be already grinding the surface every time they walk. In order to not break the bags, short users will then have to tense their arms and shoulders up to keep the bags from touching the ground. The simple act of carrying thus becomes a laboring and painful process. How can we do to solve this problem? And how can we redesign shopping bags’ sizes, appearances, and practicality to make them truly convenient and user-friendly?
I thought about replacing the regular bag handles with adjustable straps, so that users can change the lengths and forms of the handles depending on the ways they want to hold the bags (carrying in hands, on wrists, on arms, on shoulder, or even on back). Another idea that popped up in my mind was a portable shopping bag whose form could be adjusted depending on how much stuff that users got in the bag.
Borrowing the design of an umbrella, the shopping bag is made of water-resistant material (such as polyester) and can be folded up through twirling (technique we use in folding un umbrella)the cloth. Elastic skeleton will be installed inside the bag to ensure the stretchability of the texture and structure so that users have the flexibility to make it tall, short, wide, or narrow. The act of carrying is thus compatible with users’ body movements. On top of that, supporting wheels will be included at the bottom of the bag in the design. A simple shopping bag can easily be transformed into a “wagon” or “suitcase”. Instead of carrying the bag, users can also push it effortlessly while walking.
Design with the cards
In order to expand my imagination space and generate more creative thoughts, I utilized Dan Lockton’s Design with Intents card decks. Among the 101 Cards, I chose 4 cards from 4 different categories.
Cards as shown below:
Tailoring: Can your system adapt what it offers to match individual users’ needs and abilities?
Adjustable shapes, elastic skeleton, and stretchable materials allow users to change the shopping bag to any desired sizes and forms to fulfill their needs and abilities.
Make it a meme: What happens if you plan your designs to be something people want to spread, and make it easy for them to do so?
- #Bagrevolution printed on the bag. A hashtag consumers can use to share their shopping bag stories/experiences on social media accounts like FB, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
- The shopping bag will have its own brand logo “Eye”. The eye image means “Eye (I) See You”.
- Brand slogan printed on the other side of the bag to provoke emotional engagement among users.
Slogan: “You carry the bag, not the bag carries you”.
Mood: Can you use colour, images or other sensory stimuli to set a particular mood for a user’s interaction with your system?
Yellow, Pantone shade — Lemon Tonic.
Why is this color?
Yellow gives out a cheerful ambiance. Using the shade Lemon Tonic from Pantone as the color of the shopping bag, users’ moods are boosted through the color scheme.
Emotional Engagement: Can you design your system to engage people’s emotions, or make them emotionally connected to their behaviors?
A simple quote (different on each bag)will also be printed on each shopping bag. (eg. Don’t let shopping bag be the obstacle that restricts our mobility. Or No discrimination shopping bag day!)
Below are my designs of the shopping bag:
The overall process of reimagining and redesigning an existing product this past week is indeed fruitful. It is fascinating to think out of the box and learn to look at things from novel perspectives. Dan Lockton’s Design with Intents card decks have been great help in providing rich thoughts and inspirations. I really like the question that is posted on each card because the question constantly reminds me of my intents of designs — what do I want to change the most in product features? what am I not satisfied with in the existing designs? etc. I also enjoy the processes of thinking, researching, as well as drawing down the details of my designs, it enables me to realize the differences between imagination and practicality.
P.S For future note, I will be working on creating my own brainstorming card decks as well!