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How Two Suitcase Designers Are Cramming More Into Your Carry-On

Away founders Steph Korey and Jen Rubio understand your packing anxiety, which is why their new suitcase is a 2017 Innovation By Design Awards honoree.

How Two Suitcase Designers Are Cramming More Into Your Carry-On
“A physical product is never done being tweaked,” says Steph Korey, right. She and Away cofounder Jen Rubio respond quickly to customer feedback. [Photo: Chris Callaway]

Away’s Bigger Carry-On is an honoree in the 2017 Innovation By Design Awards, Fast Company‘s annual celebration of the best ideas in design. See the rest of the winners, finalists, and honorable mentions here.

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Warby Parker alums and frequent fliers Jen Rubio and Steph Korey started the luggage company Away in 2016 to solve one of travel’s biggest pains: not having a suitcase that fits your needs (or your shoes). After extensive user research—during which they learned that travelers often felt embarrassed by their luggage, insecure about their packing skills, and frustrated because they were always landing with a dead phone—the duo designed an attractive polycarbonate suitcase with organizational dividers, compression straps, and a built-in charger. The item was popular, but “a physical product is never done being tweaked,” says Korey, who explains that Away relies on constant customer feedback “to design a more and more perfect item.” One of the most frequent comments from users was that other carry-ons had more space. This led Korey and Rubio to discover a loophole in how airlines communicate size requirements: the luggage dimensions that airlines display on their websites are actually smaller than official sizers placed in airports. They quickly created the Bigger Carry-On, which is 20% roomier than the original. Launched in October 2016, it is currently the company’s best seller.

Away has sold more than 150,000 suitcases so far and generated over $30 million in sales. Now, Rubio and Korey are extending their user-focused ethos beyond luggage to travel-related accessories, designer collaborations, and Here, a print magazine with travel advice and recommendations. “It’s insane to me how many luggage companies never talk about travel,” Rubio says. She and Korey are proud of their core product, but “it’s super important to give people the context around what this bag and suitcase enable them to do.”

About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.

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