I have been conceptualizing this project since last fall. Its an attempt to satisfy my desires for a backpack that I truly love. I am not trying to make the ‘best’ backpack ever invented, but one that satisfies my needs and one that is right for me.
I want to use an Asian aesthetic with a minimalist/modern approach. As I stated in my previous blog posts, I was inspired by the architecture at the Baegyangsa Temple in Jangseong County, South Korea. An example of one of the buildings is presented below. Specifically, the curvature of the building roofs is what I want to mimic for the form of the backpack. The roofs taper upward and curve out downward, I find this style of architecture fascinating. From this inspiration, I want the backpack to taper downward and have some sort of a curve at the top when it is closed. I plan to produce the taper by designing the panels of the backpack to taper downward. For the curvature at the top, I am relying on the fact that the compression strap at the top will cinch it down and make the rolled-top portion bend. I also wanted to add some flash colors in there to mimic the bright red pillars that support the roof in the picture below.
For this prototype, I wanted to focus on the main form of the backpack. I didn’t want to get bogged down on trying to incorporate all of the features I wanted to include in the final version. I started by drawing out the pattern of the backpack. A pattern refers to the collection of shapes needed to form the designed garmet. The pattern is usually made out of some material that is easy to draw on and cut out to form a template to help trace the shapes onto the fabric before being cut. To do this, I used large poster boards (very heavy and big card stock paper), a T-square, a Pentel GraphGear1000 (mechanical pencil), and painters tape. I aligned the edge of the poster board with the edge of the work bench and taped the corners of the board to the surface of the workbench. From here, I went to town drawing out the panels that I designed. This is the part of the process that you should spend the most time on because this will dictate whether your panels will actually align properly and keep your design as repeatable as possible. A picture of the setup I used is provided below.
Once I had all of the templates cut out, I used them to help me cut the panels out of the fabric. I used a Alvin cutting mat, a rotary cutting tool, the templates I made. With the cutting mat on the work bench, I spread out the fabric so it laid flat, placed the templates on top of the fabric and traced the perimeter of the template with the rotary cutter. This was the second to most nerve racking part of the process because I wanted the panels to be cut perfectly and I kept accidentally cutting into the paper templates I was using. I managed to survive the process and had nice looking panels.
I don’t have any photos of the actual process of sewing all of the panels together. But I basically aligned the panels one by one and sew the seams together. I started with the front panels which consisted of four parts. Then I did the back which has three individual parts. The sides and bottom are kind of one big part made up of multiple panels. One side and half of the bottom was made up of three parts each.
The end result is pictured below with a couple of notebooks, a sweater, and a rain jacket inside. I am somewhat happy with the way it turned out, but there are a decent amount of changes I want to make. First, the taper I originally designed does not stand out nearly as much as I hoped. Second, the curvature at the rolled-top portion I planed to have is entirely absent. The overall structure of the prototype is very floppy and doesn’t support its own weight at all, which contributes to the bag not reflecting the pattern I designed. I also think the backpack’s length is to long for what I intended to use it for. This problems were a serious let down to be honest.
Moving forward, I need to redesign the pattern to incorporate dimensional changes that I think will improve the form of the backpack. To make the taper stand out more, I plan to reduce the total length of the backpack by about three inches, but keep the top and bottom widths the same as before. Keep the widths the same but decreasing the length will increase the angle at which the bag tapers. I purchased a type of ribbon called grosgrain, which is a milspec nylon commonly used in backpack design to reinforce certain features and to line the inside seams which hides the where the panels meet. Because the grosgrain is pretty stiff, I think it will help keep the backpacks shape/structure and produce the curvature at the top of the rolled section how I want. To further increase the rigidity of the backpack, I bought fabric that is 6x heavier than the fabric I used for the prototype. This fabric is also way stronger than what I used previously yet still relatively light weight (6.7oz/yd !). I am in the process of sourcing some foam that I can use for cushioning the back panel, this will also make it easier to take notebooks and laptops in and out of bag. For the next prototype iteration, I want to include some features that are inspired by the Samurai aesthetics. This will be mainly done by adding a large pocket in the front that will take up 75% of the front surface area. The contours of the pocket will resemble a minimalist take on the masks that some Samurai wore in combat. A sketch of a this concept is presented below.