“The BFF” Luggage Tag for MaCher
PROJECT TYPESponsored Academic
TIMELINE7 weeks (Spring 2023)
MaCher included this project in their Impact Report, which goes to the bulk of their client list and the United Nations for the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) that they take part in.
We created a multifunctional physical-digital solution for MaCher
, a certified B-Corp, that includes an NFC-anchored mobile app that acts as a shared digital family album and a triple-use luggage tag that can be attached to luggage, split into two straps for smaller luggage, or worn on the body as a fanny pack.
Take an existing MaCher core product, the luggage tag, and reimagine it based on research and ideation, while also implementing a digital companion experience that extends the brand experience.
ABOUT THE CLIENT
is a certified B-Corp with a top 1% Platinum rating by EcoVadis. They’re a product development company that uses data and academic research to design and manufacture sustainable products that drive human behavior and get brands noticed. They partner with brands to help express who they are, designing thoughtful products and meaningful solutions that get them noticed.
They sponsored this academic project and matched each team with a mentor from their office. Our team, which we called Tag Team, was matched with Jamila Jackson. She guided us throughout the project and extended MaCher’s resources to ensure the accuracy and plausibility of our idea.
Jamila Jackson, Culture & Talent
Luggage tags spend most of their lives in the closet when people aren’t traveling. They have also remained mostly static in form and function since their inception. How can we give the luggage tag more use during its lifetime while elevating the traveler’s experience? In other words, how might we extend the life of the luggage tag?
- There is an intangible culture surrounding what a luggage tag is or can be for people. It’s a chance for a company to impart a sense of belonging to their customers, to make them feel cared for.
If an item is unique and well made, consumers will hold onto it for longer, and potentially share it with family or even turn it into an heirloom. Instead of a luggage tag, we could create a different kind of luggage ID system that potentially has other use cases as well.
The BFF– A three-in-one luggage tag that can be worn around a large suitcase as a strap, split into two to fit around smaller luggage, or worn on the body as a crossbody bag or fanny pack. To fit MaCher’s sustainability goals, the tag is made from upcycled billboard and uses a pattern that allows the body of the tag to be sewn from just one piece of material.
An NFC (near field communicator) chip is sewn into each tag which tethers the tag to a private, geo-tagged photo album that can be shared between traveling friends or family members as they go on their journeys and add memories to the BFF luggage tag photo album.
RESEARCH & PROCESS
PRELIMINARY FIELD & INTERNET RESEARCH INSIGHTS
After visiting a variety of luggage tag retailers, we found that the form is essentially the same across the board–- a dangling card holder that is attached to the handle of a suitcase or bag. Quality of material and branding determined the price range and target market.
The most notable exceptions were more like straps than tags, using a cross-shaped system of stretchy fabric to secure the tag around a suitcase.
Online, we learned that certain airline memberships garner collectors and a prestigious reputation. Some people use their luggage tags to communicate status and tote their elite membership.
An offering-activity-culture mapRedditors discussing luggage tags
In other online forums, travelers acknowledged their shared experience of having a dangling tag ripped off of their suitcase by the conveyor belts during the checking or baggage claim process.
At home, we had to go digging in our closets and garages to find our luggage tags. This personal experience drove home the idea that the luggage tag’s uses are sporadic.
We spoke to two cruise-goers to better understand their priorities while traveling, both leading up to the trip and during.
They expressed that they didn’t like the lanyards they would receive from the cruise lines for their “Sea Pass” card, which doubles as their room key and credit card aboard the ship. On the ship, they typically only carried their phones, credit cards, and sunscreen.
“When you’re at sea, you don’t need anything other than your Sea Pass card.”
–- Debbie, 67, cruise-goer
Identifying personas and creating a journey map was essential. It clarified key pain points and pushed us to put more consideration towards the “extend” stage, which is how our product would live after initial use. We wanted our product to be versatile for multiple demographics, so we chose to focus our story on a grandmother and a grandson going on a trip together. It helped us consider the variety of touch points we needed to design for –– such as packaging and instruction –– to make our product as accessible as possible for this wide range of users.
Journey map for a grandmother and grandson planning a trip together
Our initial product ideation sketches were broad as we experimented with form factor, branding choices, and a variety of use cases. We quickly shied away from the traditional luggage tag, opting for more creative solutions that had potential for additional functionality beyond luggage identification. Our mentor Jamila was drawn to similar items that she felt promoted circularity and re-use: the “bracelet” design was something she was interested in as an item that could be worn “off luggage.” This concept, “off luggage,” was what primarily inspired our final idea.
Ideation sketches by Anna LarionovaIdeation sketches by Anna LarionovaIdeation sketches by Maddison NielsenIdeation sketches by Maddison NielsenWe decided to move forward with the “strap” option, as illustrated here by Kris Bumford:
Sketches by Kris Bumford
With these sketches, we went through many of the sample items and swatches at the MaCher office, and it was during one of these sessions we began to nail down final material ideas.
One of the main problems with luggage tags in their current form is the clear window made of non-recyclable plastic, so we were immediately drawn to a recycled PET mesh as a replacement.
A material we all were intrigued by was upcycled billboards. We were inspired by competing products and the idea that we would be saving something that was typically sent right to the landfill. The lightness and flexibility of the product while still being very durable was also highly valued.
Betsy Kaufman sharing MaCher’s material library with us at the Venice Beach office (left to right: Betsy Kaufman, Maddison Nielsen, Anna Larionova)Ben Denzinger, Product Designer, discussing possible options (left to right: Kris Bumford, Anna Larionova, Ben Denzinger)
We used the prototyping stage to further experiment with materials and form factors for the BFF. This exercise helped us rule out materials like washable paper and faux leather. For the shape of the bag, we stuck to the traditional rectangle, not only because it fits most common items, but also because it would waste the least material during the manufacturing process.
Laminated RPETFaux leatherWashable Paper
In addition to working with materials, creating the bag in a few different 3D modeling platforms helped to determine dimensions.
CREATING THE DIGITAL COMPANION
The insight matrix ended up being the foundation of our digital companion. Looking at the intersections of specific insights we had highlighted from our research pinpointed the challenges our product had to overcome, such as accessibility, as well as potential avenues for the digital experience. Again, the insights that were most valuable and inspiring to us had to do with creating something that enhanced the user experience through continued (and eventually, shared) use.
Our initial ideas for the digital companion ranged widely: geo-tagged AR experiences, bag-tracking tools, and social media platforms. What grounded us was aiming for the digital companion to not be a separate experience from the physical product, but rather, an enhancement. We rendered nearly twenty screens for our low-fidelity version to roughly encompass every feature we wanted the BFF album to have. Our goal was to develop an aesthetic that was reminiscent of a scrapbook while still feeling modern and easy to navigate.
UI FIRST DRAFT
Creating a good pitch is key to a successful project. For this collaboration, we had to present our idea in a concise manner to the MaCher staff as well as major stakeholders from their partner companies. We decided that using well-researched personas and illustrating the use of a project through storyboarding would be the easiest way to show how to use the BFF. We kept our pitch to under ten minutes and rehearsed very well, and in the end, really impressed our audience!
FINAL PHYSICAL PROTOTYPE
Ultimately, the bag came in at about 7.5” wide and 4.25” tall, and it would expand to a width of about 1”, to fit a chunky phone case or wallet. The billboard is easy to work with and the pre-printed advertisements may offer the opportunity for interesting designs by collaging different colors or prints. If the intention is to print a custom design on the bag, the flip-side may be used as it’s typically solid white or black. During our research into costs we found that with an approximate order of 400,000 BFF strap sets, the manufacturing and shipping cost per product would only be about $1.50.
FINAL DIGITAL PROTOTYPE
We imagined the BFF album would be accessible through an app or, preferably, a simple website that would be shareable across platforms. Users’ data would be kept secured via a URL only accessible by tapping the NFC chip on the bag and creating a passcode for that bag’s album. Users would be able to collect stamps and rewards, and take photos to share to the album, using unique stickers to share across social media. Any content a user shared on the album could be retroactively changed or deleted via the same secure URL and passcode created during setup.
Looking forward I think this product has a few different ways to grow. For one, it’s made of upcycled billboards which can be readily found online but there might be an opportunity to work with other companies who might want this kind of product for their customers to then reuse their billboards or advertisements into the product. Outside of travel, this can easily be used in other industries. For example, this can be useful to a professional makeup artist who doesn't want to carry a business card and carries tools that they need for work.
Our product was well received by MaCher and their partners, who showed interest in further developing it, and even had it prototyped in their partner factory in China using our orthographic drawings and prototypes. MaCher has also included this project In their annual report which gets sent to their clients and the United Nations.
The BFF luggage tag made in MaCher’s partner factory in ChinaJon from MaCher modeling The BFF luggage tag
It was really fun to work on a physical product again because while the design process has a lot of similarities between digital and physical there is something satisfying about building something with your own two hands.