Another bag blog

Found another great bag blog! With all the other great blogs I’ve discovered, why haven’t I discovered bag blogs earlier?

Also found this innovative cycling backpack by Ergon Bike with 2 part independent suspension:

Ergon Bike Backpack

Sexy product shot!

Oh the wonderful world of internet!


Thesis work started!

So now I have a sponsoring company, as well as a well defined project for my final thesis project! An infant carrier for Haglöfs! I’ve started to do a lot of the research, including tons of background reading on ergonomics, infant development, parenting, as well as looking on the internet to see what products exist today, and for inspiration in general.

It’s a bit ironic that my first design project – a homework assignment submitted to Umeå as part of my entrance application – was a backpack, and that my final projectwork as a design student will also be a type of backpack =)

But looking around the net, I stumbled upon a really fantastic website obsessed with all things backpacks, Carryology. I’ve been looking for a great looking and practical backpack for some time, and have bemoaned the lack of selection and design. I want a nice looking, comfortable backpack to carry all the things I need everyday, such as my 15.6″ laptop (which gets quite heavy after some time on my back, let alone if I were to use a messenger bag), that could carry enough things for an overnight trip, and look stylish and fit my everyday style. Most backpacks look too much like a hiking bag.

I had a second interview with Volvo Cars a few days ago (want the job so bad! Fingers crossed that I make it onto the 3rd and final round!!)… Anyway, I needed to go to an evening recruiting event, stay overnight in Gothenberg, and go to an interview the next morning. I didn’t have many bags to choose from that would be large enough to carry my overnight necessities (without being too large) and professional looking (or at least not like I was going hiking). Now I found this bag from Cote et Ciel, which I am in love with, and thinking about buying:

Cote et ciel rucksack

Reminds me of origami! Love the Japanese aesthetic, and simple lines. Undecided if I want it in grey, black, or tan.The lighter colours show off the form really well, but black goes with everything.

The other bag I’m considering is from Mission Workshop. I love that it is waterproof and expandable (so practical!), and would work really great for when I travel, but it looks a little on the big side and maybe overwhelming on my small frame.

Mission Workshop Rambler

I also like this bag from InCase, but apparently it’s not in stores yet… And perhaps it is a little on the small side to be used for travelling.

InCase backpack

When I think about the number of times I have thought, “I wish they made better looking camera bags!” “Backpacks!” “Laptop bags!” And all other types of practical bags. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to go into soft goods design, considering the amount of time I have spent and spend travelling, as well as my interest in design and fashion! It makes a lot of sense… something to think about if Volvo Cars doesn’t pan out.

Some days I feel worried and a bit stressed that I can’t/won’t be able to think of a great idea or design for my final thesis project… Don’t want to let down Haglöfs (or my own hopes for myself). But I feel a little inspired after seeing great backpack designs online, and maybe I need to scale back my hopes to solve all the problems of the world / imaginable / of parents everywhere, and concentrate on making a beautiful and functional product.

The other night, Per and I watched “Modets offer” on SVT, a German produced documentary translated into Swedish about how the fashion industry is exposing people to hazardous chemicals used during the production of textiles. Of course there is no easy solution, unless we start growing and producing our own textiles and clothing under conditions where we can enforce the production methods (and pay accordingly and suitably). I have really believed in buying only quality footwear, because they last longer, are breathable, more comfortable, and look better. I think that producing, selling and buying cheap shoes made of leather are a waste of really good material. Though the documentary found that even expensive shoes could have traces of banned, hazardous chemicals, I think that consuming less, but better quality items is a step in the right direction. Cheaply produced clothing is also a waste of resources and puts workers’ health in developing nations at risk. I don’t shop for clothing very often – especially compared to the average woman – but the documentary definitely makes me rethink my consumption habits.


Highlights of 2011!

The year has gone by in a flash, and looking back now, I realize there were so many amazing experiences! It really feels like a snowball effect; that by taking steps and risks towards what you truly desire, that so many good things follow!

In December/January, on my way to Taiwan to visit Per, I visited Copenhagen again, revisiting the place that inspired me – the Danish Design Center – along with the industrial design museum. I also got a taste of Russia, with a stop-over in Moscow, where I had my most entertaining flight to date, on Russian Aeroflot airlines… You can ask me about the story in person =) I got a lot of new impressions, met with old classmates from Umeå, and shopped till my backpack was bursting with cool and cheap Taiwanese fashion.

Taiwan, Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial

Taiwan, Toroko Gorge

New design inspirations from Taiwan =) =)

Rang in 2011 with Eve at Luxy nightclub in Taipei

Back in school for the winter/spring, completed 3 good school projects, all of them with positive feedback from our teachers and the companies! Volvo Cars encouraged me, along with 3 others in my class, to apply for jobs at Volvo because “we need engineers like you”. My lighting teacher passed along the name of a company that he thought I should pitch my lamp to (though I haven’t had time to follow through yet).

My Volvo seat concept

My helicopter concept

My work lamp concept

In February, I visited Stockholm twice. Once to see the Stockholm furniture fair, visiting with some friends, and the second on my way up to Umeå to visit my friend Roy, also spent visiting a museum with fantastic impressions, and crashing with a couchsurfing friend!

Stockholm furniture fair. Love this bedroom, but especially the lamp!!

Another interesting photo exhibit.. Basically Sweden had the lowest housing standard in the 1930s until they formed what is now the Swedish Consumer Agency, that observed, tested and made recommendations for household appliances.. the start of Swedish design?

Snow castle in Umeå. Amazingly no one steals the reindeer fur set on the benches, so that everyone can enjoy them… the Swedish collective

I visited Vienna in April, a dream of mine for some years, to revel in the artwork of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt.

Vienna, secessionist building

A second visit to Umeå in June to visit friends again, see the (amazing and inspirational) degree show, and the keynote speaker Richard Seymour, an extremely inspiring and optimistic designer! Said something along the lines of…

“Technology is not our limitation, our imagination is!”

I got an email response to a summer internship I applied for, along with a second follow up! I didn’t secure the position, but the fact that I am getting responses to my work is very encouraging!

Spent the summer flying and travelling around the globe, literally. Starting in June from Denmark, to Taiwan, China, New York, Canada, and back to Sweden for September.

In Taiwan, I took it easy for most of the 3 weeks, to sleep, recover and plan the China trip, though we had time to celebrate Swedish midsommar and made one last excursion out to Green Island. We only spent 2 days and 1 night on Green Island, but I would highly recommend it if you are in Taiwan, to take a scooter around the island and snorkel or scuba dive. I was skeptical about how good the snorkelling could be, so close to the shore, but I would say it was maybe the best snorkelling I have ever had!

Swedish midsommar celebration in Taiwan

Green Island, Taiwan

Green Island, Taiwan

I had planned to write about our 5 week China trip in a separate blog entry, but I’ve been so busy that I never got around to it. China is at once exhilarating, frustrating, fascinating, and full of scammers but also very kind people… It was my third visit to China, and so much has changed even from 2005 and 2008. The amount of tourism is growing staggeringly fast, especially by the growing middle class, but English is still quite limited in most places. I was grateful that Per learned quite a bit of Chinese, as there were many situations where we would not have made our way without it. I had intended to write about a lot of travel advice and tips to avoid scams that I would give to people planning to travel there independently, but maybe it’ll have to wait another day…

Irregardless, I would say that Sichuan province, particulary towards the Tibetan areas, was the highlight of our trip… If only the Chinese government had not stopped us and all western tourists from continuing onwards,”closing” all Tibetan districts, forcing us to turn back to Chengdu after all the trouble it took us to get there…


Panda center in Chengdu

Children’s school play in Kangding, Sichuan province

Tibetan gravestone in Kangding, Sichuan province

Day hiking in Kangding

Rich, yak-butter filled Tibetan bread… soooo good!

Xi’an muslim night market

Stepping up Hua Shan. One of 2 famous mountains we walked up (Emei Shan the other)

Beijing’s 798 Art District… the most interesting, and ‘authentic’ part of Beijing for me

On an “illegal” and little visited part of the Great Wall with a random local who insisted on a photo together. He came running down from another tower in worn out shower slippers yelling at us to “Be careful!” and to hold onto the sides of the wall for support, since we were falling on our asses despite proper hiking boots. Amazing!

I flew onwards to New York (my first ever visit!), while Per spent a few more days in Beijing before he would go onwards to Thailand for a few days. I stayed with my sister for 10 days at her ritzy place on Park Avenue (I think it was the first time we got to see each other in 2 years?). I was able to visit a great design exhibit at MoMa, as well as an exhibit with Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele at an Austrian art museum! I also had a chance to catch up with an old classmate from Umeå a few times over lunch! Nice thing about having studied in Umeå is that you make friends from all over the world!

To sum up New York…  The museums were great, the food a bit disappointing and expensive, and the sites – well, a bit uninteresting considering the several thousand year old sites I had visited in China. For me, the best part of New York was the people and the people watching! I could imagine living there would be great… only if you could manage a high paying job that would cover the astronomical rents, and one that wouldn’t expect inhumane working hours…

Where else but New York City?

Returning to Canada, I managed to squeeze in quite a lot of visits, and errands, with the highlight being two of my best friends getting married to each other! Of course it felt a bit short, but I was glad I always had someone to see or something to do, and was never bored.

Tim Horton’s, how I miss you!

Back in Sweden in September, we managed to squeeze in one last sailing trip. We could actually swim too, though it was 17 C in the water, which made it very short bathing.

End of Swedish summer sailing

The sailing trip would foreshadow the theme of “compact living” for the fall semester… Our school project would be to design a caravan, and the project would take the full 3+ months. I spent a lot of hours, days and nights in the project – some of it feeling very stressed. But overall it was very fun, designing my “dream” caravan – one that would show my design philosophy and aesthetic in my portfolio. In the end, they chose 2 projects from the class to be “closed” for possible further development. One of the ones they picked was me! Ironic that in doing the project for myself, and to show in my portfolio, meant that the company was so impressed by my result that I am no longer able to show it to anyone due to confidentiality… Awesome! =)

Along with a momentary payment came an offer to continue the work for our thesis project. I had to turn it down because I already secured a great company for my thesis! I had managed to secure one interview with a company doing a project that would have been beyond my expectations, but the client funding fell through. Still, I am very happy that they liked my portfolio enough to call me in! The other interview I secured, and will continue my final thesis project work with, is Haglöfs – which is like the North Face of Sweden! Beyond excited and almost in disbelief!

Between working hard on my portfolio and the caravan project, we took a little time out in October to visit Copenhagen, Denmark and Germany!

Koge, Denmark

Per and I also managed to experiment a little with some new recipes for the moose he hunted.

Successful first attempt at ossobucco, made with moose meat

Winter arrived, at least for a few days, here in southern Sweden

And now it’s been my fifth Christmas in a row away from Canada. Miss my friends and family a little, but glad I have a Swedish “family” to celebrate with. All in all I would say it’s been an amazing year, and I know that the coming years have even more in store for me. Happy new year to all!

update from Taiwan

So much has happened since my last “real” update back in January! I’m in Taiwan at the moment, vegging, updating my online presence, surfing the net, researching for and planning Per’s and my trip to China next month, and mulling over my final thesis project work for next year… (scary!)

Design/school/careerwise I’m very happy! I asked (to no one in particular, just outloud, or at least inside my head) for more meaningful projects with great companies, that would push me to the next level, and I couldn’t have asked for more! I promised myself I wouldn’t work myself to the ground like I had last year in Umeå ever again, but I came pretty close. However, it’s rewarding that companies have expressed interest in my work, which makes me feel that all the hard work is paying off! I came close to, but didn’t manage to secure an internship this summer. Still, it feels good.

I had given myself a few days off and travelled to Vienna over Easter holiday. Initially I felt so guilty for taking time off when I could have been working on a project. But I was so glad I went. I had been longing to see Egon Schiele’s work in person for some time, and it was good timing for a visit as there was a special exhibit featuring Schiele!

I can’t get enough of seeing his work – I would go back for another visit just to see his other work in rotation at the galleries. I gained a new appreciation of Gustav Klimt’s work in person. Stunningly beautiful and exciting. I thought about buying a poster as a souvenir, but they were so disappointing in comparison to the real thing, that I passed on it. It was great to get away and experience a few days of summer as the weather and the city were gorgeous.

Museum quartier, Vienna

Beautiful architecture in Vienna

I thought I would feel reenergized after visiting Vienna to push on until the end of the school year, but instead, I felt tired after months of pushing myself to the limit. As well, I’m not used to the school year being so long, as in Canada we finish for the summer in mid-April, and in Sweden I still had another 6 weeks to go. Of course I still worked, but at a slower pace. And took time to enjoy myself, like at the DJ Jazzy Jeff show at Jönköping’s student bar (awesome show!):

I made it up to Umeå twice this year, once in February, and again in June for the design school degree talks (where Richard Seymour was the keynote speaker!). It was great to see that type of atmosphere again. Sure, it’s a bit dangerous in that you can easily be sucked into being a workaholic, but the level of work is really inspiring! And I miss the work hard / play hard, more social atmosphere a bit. (Wonder how it’ll be in my program next year, now that students from outside the EU are pretty unlikely to apply for Swedish schools due to the start of tuition fees.)

After the degree show in Umeå, returned to Jönköping to clean out my flat (moving to a better location and room next year!), and then spent a few days being spoiled by Per’s parents by lots of delicious food and great Swedish weather. Have more to say, but I should probably update more often, with shorter posts.

Reflections on the blur of the last few months

Apologies for the lack of updates (to my one subscriber, my sister)… The final installment of Hiking Kungsleden and climbing to the top of Kebnekaise will have to wait a little longer still.

The last few months have been a blur: I started my masters in industrial design, in a completely new town, this time in the south of Sweden. I met new people, partied alot, travelled alot (visiting companies around Småland, as well as my Christmas break vacation through Copenhagen and Taiwan), but also worked hard. I might say a little too hard, but I haven’t worked myself to the near breaking point that I did at Umeå – which I vowed not to repeat again this year – yet I can’t help but feel guilty that I didn’t push myself a little harder.

Initially I was elated and grateful to get into my program, and finally could see how far I had come after my first year studying design. But with the first semester of my new program – and therefore, 25% of my masters program complete – coming to a close, I am slightly disappointed at the program and at myself for not having come further. I’m frustrated with the amount of group projects that we have had to do, which take up a lot of time, with very little return. Yes, if a diverse group of people work well together, then the result is much better than what any single person in the group could have done; but the situation I encountered over and over was having to do the majority of the work on my own, with the end result being worse than I would have done on my own without hours wasted attempting to meet and work as a group.

There isn’t so much time left for me to “get good”. Or as good as the level that I wish to see for myself. Passing the courses is easy and has no meaning for me – the standards that I hold myself to are much harsher than any teacher would comment. My insomnia this school year has been even worse than last year. Many nights, I lay in bed, absolutely exhausted from working at school all day, but the pressure and stress I feel keeps my mind awake (and wishing for some sleeping pills). I want to be a skilled and employable designer more than anything I’ve ever wanted before. I’ve never allowed myself to hope for something like this before… Admitting it to myself, and admitting it out loud to others has taken me a lot of courage. I still expect that some will scoff as they did before, but now I feel that my determination will win out, and the slight risk of failing is worth it.

I spent a few days in Copenhagen, checking out the Industrial Design museum, as well as the source of my epiphany from 2 years ago, the Danish Design Center. I jotted down a lot of notes from my days here, thinking about the direction I wanted my career to go in. Just briefly, I would say that I am glad of the trend that progressive design firms seem to be moving away from simply putting a new pretty package on old solutions, and are trying to tackle the next generation of problems. It’s absolutely perfect for me!

Then I spent 3 weeks in Taiwan visiting Per. I had no idea what to expect from Taiwan, and it was a pleasantly surprising mix of China and Japan. Some superficial observations about Taiwan:

– I created a lot of garbage even during my short stay there, by all the disposable cups, bowls, chopsticks, packaging, plastic bags, etc. I did like how they had clearly marked items that could be recycled by a special symbol (and a lot of the packaging was recyclable), but they could do a step better by simply reducing the amount of packaging they use, and by using more reusable items. For example, in a restaurant, it really wasn’t necessary to serve us the meal in disposable tableware! And I didn’t need to have my drink that I purchased – in a plastic cup – placed into another plastic bag, for “ease” of carrying.

– I’ve never heard such polite Chinese spoken! Even teenagers say thank you to the bus driver and clean up after themselves in food courts.

– I’ve never seen such non-aggressive dogs roaming free! Likely it’s due to being so well fed from table scraps. They were pretty cute and friendly and grew on me after awhile.

– I never thought I could feel so cold at +15 C… Sweden and Canada don’t feel as cold, when you can at least escape the cold by going indoors to heated buildings.

– I really would like to learn more Mandarin. But add that to the list of a 100 things I would like to accomplish sometime in the near future now…

We had a chance encounter with a Swedish man at the airport. He was married to a Taiwanese woman, and had his own business in Sweden, in a really fascinating field. What was interesting was that he started out in a very different field! Makes me even more convinced that I need to find my “niche”, to secure demand for my skills… I met up with one of my classmates from Umeå in Taiwan, and she was soon on her way to Copenhagen to start her masters. It makes me really happy to hear of the successes of my former classmates! When I look at my former classmates, I can clearly see their “niche” (or did they already know their niche and already start to market it?). But I’m not so clear on what my own strengths are.

As for travel, I think that the travel bug has lessened somewhat in me. I’m still interested in going to other countries. But I want to experience it deeper than just a few days or weeks. I want to communicate with the people and get a deeper sense of the place and its people. Learning another language is so time intensive, but so rewarding I think. (Yes, I need to learn more Swedish, though I’m trying.) I am so envious of people who really get to experience a place. I wonder if I’m able to do the same, or whether I let my shyness hold me back too much of the time.

Sleep is beckoning me, so I shall have to ponder all this some more later.

wine label redesign exploration

Exploring ideas on a redesign of Casillero del Diablo… not the “final” design.

The aim was to better differentiate the brand from the competition, making the label more memorable and modern, while retaining and communicating quality.


Concept #1

Concept #2

Concept #3

Concept #4

Some comments and the final design to follow…  Tomorrow I’m leaving for a 10-day hiking trip in northern Sweden (Kungsleden!), and I’ll barely have time to pause and move before going on a 5+ days long sailing trip! (And perhaps visit Norway as well before school starts?) Argh, when will I have time to finish the final design? Summer is almost over!

sweden and alcohol

I got a brilliant idea for a pet project to teach myself graphic design! Designing a wine label! In Canada (and Australia), the few times that I have attempted to buy wine have often been a flop. Of course, it could have to do with going to a “normal” store as opposed to a specialized wine store with knowledgeable employees. But in any case, some wine companies use extremely gimmicky packaging in the hopes of attracting a sale – especially in Australia. And of course I am skeptical that the wine could possibly be any good. For example, Naked Grape:

Far too “pretty” and obviously targeted towards females that don’t know any better. Of course I haven’t been suckered into buying it, but I got the opportunity to try it at a party in Canada, and it confirmed how horrible it was… This guy wrote a spot on review of Naked Grape. This isn’t a unique case, as I’ve encountered bad wine in pretty packages on other occasions.

When I think about the marketing ploy to attract naive female buyers into purchasing alcohol based on pretty packaging, it’s actually quite insulting to my intelligence as a consumer. I discussed this a little with Per, and actually, I came to the conclusion that I am just really snobby when it comes to most things – such as movies, music,  etc. and my opinion on wine isn’t much different.

Because the sad part is, the marketing works. When I see what 90% of females purchase and consume for alcohol – syrupy-sweet wine coolers/cider (Canadian and Swedish terms differ but the products are similar), pink, fizzy wine “beverages”,  sour grape juice with a horrible alcohol taste in a pretty package sold under the guise of “wine”. But the marketing works, and they become repeat, satisfied customers. I just think that if most consumers had the opportunity to try and understand something that was higher quality, they would realize what they had before was quite bad. Yes, I know how snobby I sound! It reminds me of some of the snobby art philosophers I read about and reacted to in school: “we know what’s good art, but the masses aren’t educated enough to know what is good.” I’m barely knowledgeable about wine, but I know bad wine when I taste it.

It’s interesting to hear so many negative things about Systembolaget, which is the state-controlled monopoly seller for alcohol in Sweden. Sure, the prices for alcohol in Germany and France, and even the Netherlands is much, much lower, but I don’t exactly have access to a car to make a trip to load up and bring it back like many Swedes do. I found the prices for beer and liquor to be roughly the same as in Alberta. The prices for wine I would say are more reasonable! In Alberta, I came to the conclusion that a decent, drinkable wine could not be bought for less than $14. In Sweden I’ve had a few decent bottles of wines for the perceived-to-be-outrageously overpriced $9! And mediocre wine according to “them”.

I went to Systembolaget yesterday to do some research for my graphic design project. I had a number of interesting observations:

– wine purchasers were mainly men (80%), but it could depend on the time of day I visited

– there weren’t as many loud and obnoxious packaging as in Canada or Australia. Even the wines from Australia looked almost austere.

– the white and rose wines seemed to use more flashy packaging than red wines… some of them fell into the “must taste bad” category from my view

– I observed 2 young females in their early 20’s browsing the wines looking completely lost. I think they ended up buying a bottle of rose wine…

– one woman in checkout had 2 slim blue bottles of wine (German riesling?)…  Another case study of effective marketing towards women??

I might gamble to say that maybe Systembolaget doesn’t sell absolutely horrible wines in the way that Canada does? Per said he’s never encountered a low quality wine in the way I’ve described. But after all, Systembolaget has educated purchasers that make the buying decisions for the whole country. And at every store, their personnel are all educated in wine and alcohol, which is great if you need assistance.

Yesterday was actually only the second time I’ve bought wine in Sweden, because I don’t buy wine unless to share with someone else. A whole bottle is a bit much for one person! I might do further research to test the theory of whether Systembolaget sells any horrible wine. It seems like a fun experiment, but the risk of spending not exactly student pocket change for a bad hangover makes me a little hesitant. Maybe I should engage some of the employees who speak good English  in a conversation? Tell them that I’m skeptical to try a bottle of white wine because it has a bright pink label (*wish I took a photo of it – it cast an eerie glow onto the contents, making it turn an unappetizing colour), and whether it is a sign of low quality?

I’ve heard people complain about the hours of Systembolaget, but I don’t find them to be that unreasonable since many of the provinces in Canada are the same. 3.5% beer and lower is sold in the grocery stores in Sweden, which we don’t do in Alberta. Okay, so in Alberta we can buy alcohol at almost any hour, but I’ve hardly taken advantage of this convenience. Mostly I feel bad for the employees that have to work such late hours.

Overall I would say the selection at Systembolaget is very good. I like the fact that I can try a few different brands of Belgian and British beers quite easily every time I shop. If I have one complaint, it is that Swedish beer isn’t very good, with the exception of a few higher priced beers that come from smaller breweries. Most of them taste more ore less the same, a bit watery, with not much taste or character to them. But they are drinkable and cheap, and much preferred over syrupy sweet cider beverages. But the big, mass produced North American beers are like that as well; there are good, interesting beers produced by smaller breweries, naturally with a higher price tag.

Back to my idea about redesigning a wine label. I’m not saying that wine labels should be boring, ugly, or conservative. In fact, I would say another reason I was compelled towards this project is that I find it difficult to remember wines I’ve tried and liked because the labels tend to be indistinguishable and not very memorable, which means I fail in repurchasing it. I think a label can communicate elegance while still looking fresh and unique. I found out about Stockholm Design Lab, whose work I love and wouldn’t mind working for! They designed this label:

In the end, this raises an ethical question for me: how would I feel about working on or designing for a client who had products I didn’t support or believe in?