Every laptop bag, backpack and tablet case that we sell at techair is the product of a careful design process. In our quest for the best laptop bag for business, we spend hours coming up with ideas and thinking about how they will give people what they need. That’s whether they are looking for the best bags for commuters, the most eco-friendly laptop bag, or something to suit their specific business.

Creating the best laptop bags on the market isn’t easy, so we want to give a bit of insight into the process that goes into designing them. In this article techair’s head of design, John, chats through what goes into creating techair’s range of laptop bags, backpacks, sleeves and cases and explains why innovation is so important. 

When it comes to designing laptop bags, where do you get your inspiration from?

Everything starts with a brief from the design group. Sometimes it can be concise and other times there is quite a lot of freedom. First I like to just start drawing. I see what I’ve got in my own head and what comes out onto a page. Then once I’ve gone a bit into that initial concept stage, I back it up with some research and might have a look at what else is around. But the reason I steer away from doing the research completely first is because you might miss something you could come up with that doesn’t already exist.

The design process can vary depending on what the product is for. I often take inspiration from my own experiences. Recently we did some commuter products and as I used to cycle into work and also commute in my car, I took inspiration from my own experiences. 

On top of that there are other interests that can influence my work. I used to mountain bike, which is a technical sport that needs technical gear, so that use of equipment comes into some designs.

What I design is inspired by everything I dip into. I do specific research for projects but things I’m interested in at the time often come into it – whether that’s sports, cars or fashion. They all influence me, from tiny details like the stitching on vintage cars to colours inspired by trainers, or designs influenced by footwear.

Materials as inspiration

Another influence is the technology that we actually make the bags from. If there’s a new component or new technology that we can draw on then that can inspire a collection. For example, our Evo range uses magnets to allow the modular side of it. The range wasn’t necessarily inspired by magnets, but we applied magnets to achieve something that became key to the design. 

Equally, our Eco products are built around the sustainable fabrics that they’re made from, so sometimes it works that way round. 

How long does it take to design a laptop bag? 

It really can depend on what the product is, how complex it is, and whether the design hits the mark in terms of what we’re trying to create. With some designs, it might be that the first or second drawings look right but with others, we may go round and round in circles and still not end up with something that everyone’s happy with.

There’s also always a compromise between innovation and coming up with something inspiring, different and functional and the price it takes to do that. 

What’s the process of turning a design into a product?

Again, designing the perfect laptop case or laptop backpack can vary. I start by sketching something and if I like how it looks then I’ll draw it up so it’s at a stage that can be reviewed by the development team.

At that point if the team likes the idea and we think we can move forward with it I’ll draw up the specification – views of the bag, line drawings with correct dimensions – that can be sent to the factory. Sometimes we might sample the bag in the UK, but it’s more likely that we’ll send the specs directly to our team in the Far East team and they will make the first sample.

How it goes from there depends on what that first sample looks like when it comes back. Sometimes it’s almost good enough to go and we only need to make a few tweaks, sometimes it’s a bit of a sense check and shows that some aspects of the design won’t work.

Once we have something we’re happy with, it gets handed over to the commercial team to make sure pricing comes in at where it needs to be. The whole process takes around 100 days, but timings can vary if it’s a product that comes with its own zip designs or moulded components like the functional rubber branding elements on our Evo range

What’s your favourite techair product?

My favourite techair product is probably one of the laptop bags from the Evo range, our range of bags with modular pockets. I love the concept and the fact we were able to deliver such an interesting, exciting range within certain constraints is something I’m really proud of. 

I also love the new commuter range, designed to meet the needs of people commuting to and from work or to different destinations. We looked at everything from the shape of the bag to where you put things in it to make sure it would be perfect for commuters.

There have been plenty of interesting design projects with techair, including some leather sleeves as well as kids’ cases that had their own themes and allowed children to colour them in with special felt tips.

We also worked on a tablet case that opened up and by folding in a certain way would lift it up so you could view the screen comfortably. I love that aspect of design – where there’s a twist or a functional aspect that isn’t obvious.

What is most frustrating about designing laptop bags?

The most difficult thing is when you have an idea for something that we know can be done because there’s evidence of it in another sector but we can’t do it for a whole variety of reasons. It means we’ve got a great idea, we know we can create something special, but we can’t put it out there.

As B2B laptop bag suppliers, we are also limited in terms of the relationships we have with the end users of our products.

Our customers are IT resellers who in turn supply to organisations, so while ideally you would have a direct conversation with the customer about every single product, that doesn’t always happen.