Help? First time designing a laptop bag for production

Hey all!,

I was recently asked to look into designing a laptop/messenger bag for work. I am the only US based designer, and have an ID background with a lot of Design engineering experience. What I need help with is:

Sourcing manufacturing and materials
Specifying materials and colors
Standards for communicating the design

I’m used to doing thermoforming , steelwork and injection mold in SW or Rhino

Neither of these seem right for soft goods. I have strong PS skills, decent Illustrator.

What would you all reccommend for documenting the design for quote and manufacture? What are some of the experiences you all have had that you could pass on to me? I’m thinking "What are the joining methods I want to call out? What are the tolerances? Stuff like that.

Appriciate any help you all can send my way!


Will Design for food

Having worked in the bag industry for 20 + years here’s the scoop.

  1. Most pattern makers prefer isometric sketches to 2D Cad elevation drawings, though the scale information you can do in a face on Graphite or similar 2D CAD drawing is great for real numbers.

  2. If you don’t feel comfortable with your knowledge of soft good bag construction you can reference a picture of existing product for seam construction (e.g. piping, clean finished binding, or turn on turn).

  3. Provide as much information regarding the organizer section of the bag as possible (e.g. length and depth of pockets and what you see going into them).

  4. If you are going to use some kind of restraining panel or system for the computer, try and be as clear in illustrations as possible.

  5. On the material side you will be able to get basic samples (ballistic nylon, Cordura nylon etc in the US but any Asian maker will have a much wider palette, as their suppliers provide more choices than available outside Asia).

  6. On the maker side I can provide some connections but like everything out of China or Asia in general quantity is the issue.

  7. Samples may be invoiced at a cost that can be re-embursed with the first order.

Let me know if I can be of further assistance.


Thanks David! Can you point me in the direction of some bag manufacturers? THis is going to be for a Major laptop MFG, So quantity won’t be an issue. They should probably be Asia based. I just don’t know where to begin looking.

I’ll use the Photo reference till I pick up the Lingo (Whats Turn on Turn? I can guess the other two :smiley:

What sort of tolerances should I expect? +/- 1/2" better / worse?

I’m sampling as many other bags and web sites as I can to get a handle on material specs (840D Nylon etc) And the foam protective system as well.

And tonight I’m going through This group posts and portfolios till I find good examples of production drawings.


Well, What exactly is your role in this?

Are you designing or are you “running the show,” as it were? I’m not schooled in the design process beyond my methods, but I do know a little bit about the manufacturing process. I’m no expert, but I will share any information I have…

Do you need to source the fabrics for the entire run?

You might want to order physical samples of fabrics so you can feel the difference in weight and see the color/pattern with your own eyes. Remember that dye lots change and if you’re sourcing for a large number of units, you will probably need to sample the fabric as it leaves the dye house. You might think a certain weight and weave/pattern is perfect based on a picture, but it may actually feel “cheap” or .

Construction with factories… In my limited knowledge of this area, I would say that most manufactures use their own seam allowances. 3/8" and 1/2" are the most common. However, they work for you and should be accommodating to what you want, but they can provide input that will save you time and money in some cases… IF you let them.

You need to learn the “lingo”, as it were, if you are “running the show.” Especially, if you are going to work with a factory in Asia, because ideas can be lost in translation. You will also need to determine if they have the right equipment and skill-set to accomplish your desired result.

BTW - I believe “turn on turn” is slang for a flat or felled seam, but I could be wrong and a perfect example of why standards need to be embraced.

Greetings AEdesign,

Could you give us a little more information on your project ?

We’ve been here in Taiwan working in the sporting / cycling industry since '93, and yes doing lots of bags for the cycling / ski / tennis / motorcycle industry.

Most importantly, is this something your company is planing on doing or just exploring.

Also, estimated initial order quantity will be one of the primary questions the factory will want to know. I would suggest that you look at Taiwan factories first, most, if not all can offer Mainland China production as well.

I have found that it is best to offer the factory your concept, or look at the products that the factory already has paterns for and make minor changes.

Reasons for this are numerous, but this way will give you an idea of product cost, if you start spec’ing specific thread counts / materials from your side (US) the factory can probably do it, but you will end up paying a premium for something that might have little bearing on your end product.

Also you need to take into consideration the types of material / webbing / coatings that will effect your import duties, for all of this, it is much better to partner with the manufacturer who can show you a list of the material / hardware (zippers/pulltabs/piping/clips…etc) suppliers that they have strong relationships with.

My personal feeling is that if your company is serious about a project like this (I am assuming now that your company will also be responsible for selecting and working with the manufacturer), then it truly requires you (and or the decision maker) to take a trip and meet with 2 or 3 factories and start the process.

It really cannot be done over the phone or internet since there are so many choices that need to be made before they can offer you a price quote.

While it might sound harsh, most will not consider working on a project unless you can guarantee at a minimum of a 5,000pc initial order.

You will probably hear this somewhere along your journey on this project, but it is closer to the truth then not.

"I can manufacture 1pc for you for $5,000, I can make 1,000pcs for $50 each or I can make 10,000pcs for $10 each.

I also see that your in Arizona ? If you can get over to Las Vegas…(now), from the 24th to the 26th you will find the Interbike show, the largest cycling/sport show in the USA. There you will see most of the latest in laptop/messenger bikes for the 2009 season on display.

You can check the Taiwan booth area, I know for a fact that most of the bag companies will not be at this show, (they attended Eurobike last week in Germany) but there will be trading companies that can assist…

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

Best regards, Ted

Some interesting info guys !

it’s great to see the generous & dynamic exchange of these boards in full swing!

A faceless designer (or more truthfuly sytlist!) gives thanks to all!

Great insights, it’s the handing down of knowledge that would lead us to a better generation of designers! Compliments to you!