It’s hard to imagine, but as recently as the late 1960s there were no such things as backpacks. Hikers and climbers had day packs, but the backpack as we know it wasn’t born until 1967, when the Seattle-based JanSport wised up and created a version for students and their heavyweight textbooks. The trend would later migrate east, in the 1980s, when L.L. Bean introduced its book packs–even reinforcing the straps with extra stitching to allow for the slung-over-one-shoulder trend that would continue well into the 1990s and aughts.
A few decades later, and the schoolyard staple has expanded, so that it’s now easy to be chic and professional while wearing a backpack. The funny thing about the evolution of these bags is that they’re still optimized for carrying several books or folders, even though all our intelligence is now likely housed on a laptop. “It is hard to find well-made, simple, and non-fussy bags without the usual extra pockets and gold or silver additions,” says Katharina Eisenkoeck, the designer and founder behind London-based Ekdesign. “Hence the laptop bag was designed against the movement toward excessive decoration.” Eisenkoeck’s interpretation of the backpack is strictly no frills, crafted specifically to cradle a 17-inch laptop, and little else.
Her creation began with a simple question: What is essential? “The challenge of determining the simplest solution possible was playing a major role in this project,” she tells Co.Design. “It was crucial to create a minimalist and functional shell through sharp lines, a subtle color, and smart proportions.” The result is a hardy, Manila envelope-like sleeve that can be slung over shoulders, or converted into a tote. Mindful of our other gadgets, Eisenkoeck also designed matching mini-sleeves sized for smartphones.