Coming soon to airports near you: A product-design smackdown

Posted by Rob Walker on July 3, 2008
Posted Under: The Designed Life

So this seems like actual New You Can Use from the NYT: The TSA has “given the go-ahead for passengers to use newly designed carry-on bags that will let them pass through security without having to take their laptops out for the X-ray inspection.”

Luggage-makers Targus and Pathfinder are “rushing to produce the new ‘checkpoint friendly’ laptop cases,” supposedly available in a few months.

I can tell you right now that as a consumer, I’m extremely interested in this. And it’s gotta be a slam dunk for these companies, right? One thing I know about airport security lines is that there are a lot of people in them, many have laptops, and all look annoyed with the process.

I’m also interested in the backstory here in terms of whatever dance went on between the TSA and the luggage makers. The article indicates that the TSA issued a request for proposals back and March; 60 luggage-makers responded to; six ended up submitting prototypes.

I’ve found a bunch of news stories and blog posts, but no prototype images. Have you seen anything? I’m really curious. Among other things, this seems like it would be a really pretty satisfying design challenge to tackle, because the designers are really solving a pervasive problem. (Okay, okay, it’s not the LifeStraw — it’s an annoyance problem instead of a mortal one, but still.)

Part of the challenge is that the TSA specified the bags should have “self-evident features” that I guess will signal the X-ray friendliness to security workers. (As I understand it, the problem with current bags/cases is that somehow security workers have trouble seeing the laptop with the x-ray, and/or there’s a problem with all the other electronic gear that often gets stuffed into the same bag. I’ll be interested to see what “self-evident features” means, but it truly is crucial, because what I’m most skepitcal of here is: Will security workers know? In my experience, it doesn’t matter what the official rules are, what matters is what the security worker thinks the rules are. I remember the period when there were “checkpoint friendly” shoes being made, and explaining that to the security worker was a waste of time, the answer was simply: Take off your shoes. (Then after the shoe bomber thing it all became irrelevant, and now people even have to take off flip-flops, which is preposterous. Then again, flip-flops are preposterous.)

Anyway it sounds like there will be a slew of these bags in a variety of styles between now and the end of the year. Great design-marketplace smackdown. Should be fun to watch.

If you’ve seen an image of any of these bags, please let me know.

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

Hi Rob, found a website with photo. From what I can tell, every laptop bag maker who received the TSA’s info has, or is in the process of manufacturing said bag.

Aerovation has already applied for a patent. TSA-friendly laptop bag photo on home page. Click on OUR PRODUCTS tab for more photos and editorial. Here’s an excerpt:

“Aerovation® Products started the process of inventing our Aerovation® Checkpoint Friendly™ Laptop Bag the instant we learned of the interest on the part of TSA. The difference between us and the other bag manufacturers is that we are engineers and pilots not fashion designers. We put all the effort into X-ray permeability not style.”

Happy 4th,
Richmond, VA

Written By bonnie larner on July 4th, 2008 @ 3:53 pm

Add a Comment

required, will not be published