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The Archivist

A Bag that Remembers

The Archivist is an everyday wear bag that keeps track of items you place in it. It alerts you when items you usually bring with you are missing so you don't forget things as you are on the go.
My Role
Designer (Solo Project)
My Team
Mia Tomblin — Interface Designer
Bonnie Sun — Industrial Designer
Angelique Dale — Industrial Designer
Project Duration
2 weeks (November 2019)
In my junior year of undergrad, I took my first soft product design class. This was my intro into the basics of fashion and designing using only the power of the stitch and soft materials. For my final project, I wanted to use my new knowledge of soft good design, to address a pervasive problem I was seeing in my and many of my purse-toting friends' lives.
The Bag Problem

Bags are magical! They're these nifty little pieces that both hold all our stuff and act as markers of self-expression and individual style. But they can't help the universal problem of human forgetfulness. It's happened to me numerous times. I tell myself "Hey Chaeeun, remember to pack your medicine in your bag. You need to take it after class." ...And like clockwork, I forget to put the medicine in my bag. Or an even more common occurrence, I get to a cafe to get some work done only to realize: I left my laptop charger at home.

When I talked with my bag-toting friends, many of them lamented of similar issues: forgetting to put their sunglasses in their bag, accidentally forgetting their keys, forgetting to pack extra tampons. Or maybe they're in a rush and forgot their perfume...the list of small mishaps is endless.

The Bag's Superpower

I was ragging on bags earlier, but bags are actually such a genius invention. They're so good at consolidating. They allow us to carry things with ease as we travel from place to place. They make it easy to keep everything in one place.

The caveat here is: you must know what's in your bag. And you must know if something is missing. Here is where I saw an opportunity to augment the function of the ubiquitous bag.



How can we design a bag that helps us keep track of the items we need on the go?
Low Fidelity Prototyping

After I sketched out the design of my bag, I first constructed a prototype made out of chipboard and muslin. This prototype was inexpensive and quick to make. What I really wanted to guage was what the dimensions of the bag would look like in 3D space and see how much room I would have available to put the sensors I would use to keep track of what's in the bag.

A note from 2023 Chaeeun: Unfortunately 2019 me was not as great as 2023 me at documenting my entire process, and it seems my sketch has been lost to the ether. 😔

Lasercutting the main body of the bag
Measuring the inside compartments to see how much room I'll have to include the sensors to keep track of items.
Augmenting with Sensors

With the bag measured out and the dimensions down, I began playing with weight sensors as a method of rudimentary item tracking. I chose very light weight sensors that wouldn't take up too much height in the bag in order to 1) make them as inconspicuous as possible and 2) to leave as much room in the bag as possible. Because handbags typically have some rigidity to their form - particularly at the bottom side of the bag, I was able to put the sensors in the bottom of the bag with very little trouble where I hooked them up to an Arduino.

Adding an Interface

In order for the bag to communicate what's in it to the wearer, I opted for a light that I sewed onto the bag and diffused with a fitted frosted acrylic piece to put on top of the light. The light changes color depending on whether or not the wearer has everything or is missing anything in their bag. It also changes color when the wearer wants to recalibrate the bag to accommodate a new item.

I used a neopixel ring as it had a good range of colors and patterns to cycle through and I thought it would add a nice aesthetic detail to the bag. The form of the bag is simple with a dark and smooth exterior. I wanted to give the bag a somewhat futuristic look, and I though the light would also add to this overall aesthetic direction well.

Final Design

I sewed the final bag together using a faux leather with a dark green jewel tone to match the cool lighting tone of the neopixel ring and add to the bag's somewhat futuristic feel. The faux leather has a slight but muted shine to it and paired with the color of the fabric,  it immediately reminded me of alien skin, so of course I had to use it. The ring turns purple when the bag wearer is missing something and blue when the wearer is good to go and has all their items accounted for. I programmed the sensors so that they run a check once the wearer sets their bag down. I chose this method for 2 main reasons.

1. I didn't want the bag distracting the wearer when they are wearing it and on the go.

2. With the short time frame of the project, I chose this as it would balance being not too intrusive with being simple enough to execute with the week I had remaining to complete my completed final prototype.

This was the first project I ever did combining soft materials and sensor technology. While I look back on this project and think that there are many things I could have improved such as the form I chose and perhaps even changing the way the light looks so it's less harsh - I look back and am so grateful to have had the opportunity to tinker and explore the combination of soft goods, interactivity in the application of solving an everyday, almost invisible problem we run into in our daily lives. I learned a lot about the pitfalls and unique considerations you must make when trying to incorporate any type of sensor technology with a flexible material.

I also learned that it's a lot harder to sew a handbag than one might think. (My sewing skills are a work in progress.) 🤪