A DESIGN CLASSIC IN THE MAKING
With the first release of the backpack in 2012, it was instantly clear there was significant demand for this new kind of design. Since then, the development of the pack has not been standing still. The gear has been tuned to perfection; features were added and improved; new accessories have been added. And over the years, the SOLID GRAY® Backpack has taken its position in the world of designer backpacks.
Q & A: THE DESIGN STORY BEHIND THE BACKPACK
What triggered the development of the SOLID GRAY Backpack?
The inspiration came from nature/ bio-mimicry, such as crustaceans and beetles, using a thin layer of material to make a strong shell. But also robotics, Gundam, and sci-fi in terms of style and looks.
The starting point was the material. Using a “new” material and explore how you can work with it. What kan you make of it, how can you process/manipulate it, what would benefit the backpack when using this material. All these questions were part of the design process that ultimately created this iconic backpack.
Working with plastic, what kind of options does that present in the design that a conventional backpack may lack?
It enables us to create a lightweight hard-shell design backpack, which is the most prominent feature with its distinctive look.
But it also enables more minor features. Such as the “hidden handle” we designed. Or our own “Solid Gray Switch System” to switch your shoulder straps. That system could not function on a conventional backpack.
It enables us to design a “base” (the backpack) to build further. We aim to expand with more and more modular systems/items/accessories.
It enables us to think and design in ways not possible with conventional backpacks.
We find it a nice feature to solve as many design issues with the same material. (pockets, clips, locks)
Aesthetically, the bag is quite refreshing. Did you have to make any sacrifices in utility or practicality to be able to realize the look you were going for, or vice-versa?
One of the few sacrifices we’ve made is having “outer pockets.” So everything is locked inside.
The upside of this, it that that the backpack is quite “theft-proof.” No one is going to open your gear without you knowing it. Nothing to steal from a small front package. No cutting to the bottom of the backpack and steal the content.
The other “sacrifice” is to commit to a specific size. We wanted it to fit all 15 inch (15,6) laptops. But it won’t fit the huge 17″ gaming laptops. We do get requests for this. But the backpack would be too massive. (maybe in another form in the future)
What was the greatest difficulty in creating your backpack in any facet of the design process?
Well, there were quite a few. Obtaining the suitable material was a definite first. As it is not a stock material and now custom made for us. After a long search, the first sheets we finally obtained were part of a small run for another company/application, and they had a small pile of surplus production. The investments we have to make in the material are substantial and were hard to make from the very beginning. That’s why we were lucky to get that first pile of sheets to get started.
In the design process, we had many hurdles to take.
Figuring out how to close/lock the lid of the backpack took a lot of work. We’re proud that these current locks work so great and look so natural. When in fact, we made hundreds of prototypes to end up with the current solution.
Optimizing the folding lines is another technical difficulty that took a lot of work. Generally, designing all aspects of the backpack and producing it all comes down to working with a tenth of a millimeter’s accuracy.
What’s it like to see people wearing your design?
Awesome! Just awesome!
Especially when we started with Instagram, we saw more and more people wearing the backpack worldwide! We already knew we had interest from (for us) far away places, but seeing in on photos is just great. A rewarding feeling that your design gets so much appreciation.
What message do you want to convey to the public through the work you are doing?
Not everything is pre-determined; things can be different. We believe in creating new things. Products that are different because we design them from scratch. These products aren’t out of the ordinary for the sake of being different. They are something new because we might have a completely unusual approach, resulting in a new logical entity. We are not happy until form, function, and material make sense.
So look around you, and don’t be afraid to question anything that seems to be “set in stone.” And don’t be turned down by people who say something is not possible; you’ll be surprised how wrong they can be 🙂