Totally tote bags

Seemingly appearing from nowhere around five years ago, the tote bag is at its best seen as both a canvas for good design and a reusable eco product.

Designs by Claudia Brown and Jessie Whipple Vickery from Pattern People
Designs by Claudia Brown and Jessie Whipple Vickery from Pattern People

Jitesh Patel, illustrator, designer, and owner of Jai Studio, started the Tote Prints Blog in 2009, documenting the phenomena and the increasingly sophisticated graphics and imagery it throws up.

Now she’s compiled her favourite designs in a new book. Some of the best ones play with the form of the bag itself and it seems artists are coming up with increasingly imaginative ways to promote their own work or a client message.

Design by Gabe Wong
Design by Dave Hughes from Ammo Magazine and David Denosowicz and Maggie Doyle

The work of over 120 designers and illustrators has been selected, including that of Angus Hyland, eBoy, Gemma Corell, Jon Burgerman and HUGE.

I don’t completely buy into the tote bag eco argument. Obviously the idea of a tote bag is much more sustainable then that of a plastic bag, which is by its nature weak and yet has a stubbornly enduring after-life as a piece of litter.

Design by Gabe Wong
Design by Gabe Wong and Gabrijela Bulatovic

However I’m fairly sure masses of the less-well-designed tote bags, and those peddling awful messages, end up on the tip, particularly after conferences.

Design by Gabe Wong
Designs by Gemma Busquets and Gemma Correll

This little book though highlights, by a Darwinian virtue, the tote bags which are the most desirable, and therefore the most likely to be kept, and used – the survivors.  

Design by Gabe Wong
Designs by Gemma Latimer and Gemma Shiel

 The Tote Bag: Mini Edition by Jitesh Patel is priced £9.95, will be published by Laurence King in February 2013

Latest articles

The best talks to catch at D&AD Festival 2018

Returning to East London’s Old Truman Brewery, this year’s D&AD Festival boasts a line-up of speakers that includes graphic designer Craig Oldham and Pentagram’s Naresh Ramchandani. Here, we pick out