The Design Process

If you think luggage design is simple, think again

13th August 2018

Form Follows Paragraph:
Beautifully designed luggage that stands up to rigors and regulations

By now, VOCIER is far from a one-man-band, but much of the designs originate in the mind of one man: founder Michael Kogelnik. His background as an investment banker and industrial designer has put him in a unique position to be able to isolate a problem and develop a solution. For a person who travels a lot, having a piece of luggage that simplifies life can make everything much simpler: from the moment you start packing, through the airport and airplane transfers, and, of course, once you’ve arrived. Michael knows this all too well.

It would be easy to look at the C38 and say Why didn’t I think of that!? because so many of the solutions appear so intuitive. But don’t be fooled. Many hours of thought, design, rethinking and redesigning went into all VOCIER luggage. Not to mention the amount of time Kogelnik and his partner Vinzent Wuttke have spent traveling. “If you dive deep enough, everything is interesting. I never dreamed about making the perfect luggage,” Kogelnik explains. “But it was something that I saw the need for. And having this need myself, it was more just solving a problem.”

Fast Pass™ concept Pocket to access toiletries outside main compartment

Looking for the best, not the easiest solution

Of course, it is one thing to have the idea, and another to be able to follow it through to completion. That is especially true when dealing with notoriously picky oversight institutions. Satisfying FAA or EASA regulations means that even at its most basic, a piece of luggage has to do more than just function. It has to function according to code: “There is the saying form follows function, right? But you could also just as easily say that form follows paragraph because there are so many regulations with what you can and cannot do,” Kogelnik says.

With so many use cases that a piece of luggage has to fulfill, it becomes a very complicated design problem. “It has to do so many things and so many different kinds of travel in so many cultures. It has to work to pack your clothes and then to keep them wrinkle-free,” Kogelnik says. “But then not be over a certain weight, be as light as possible, be as strong as possible, be as durable as possible, have all these functional small pockets, the wheels, and the trolley system. All together it’s actually quite complex.”

But what certainly helps in the design process is to have a firm grasp of the medium. “When I first started to design luggage, I learned how to sew, because that is a really important part of the production process for luggage.” Getting to know the materials, how they function and interact will always be an intricate part of a design process, but it can get glossed over or ignored until too late. “So many designers are very creative, but then they will design stuff that cannot be produced, at a reasonable price point at least,” Kogelnik explains. “It’s only if you know how those things work together can you really design a product that works in a production context.”

So how does VOCIER start its luggage design process?

“It starts with research and then we buy a lot of products. We test them, we think about them, we learn what the competition does,” Kogelnik reveals. “We learn about new material trends, new fashion trends. We learn about other industries and what they are doing with materials and see how we can maybe apply some of those solutions for business and frequent travelers.”

Being an avid traveler helps as well. In his time as an investment banker, Kogelnik would have been on the road much more than at home. And even now he is traveling at least two weeks out of every month, which means he is continually experiencing situations that can point to areas of travel that should be improved. “With travel and the research we do, you start to generate all sorts of new ideas. So then you think, okay, I’d like a coat that can do X, and then from those ideas, you start really the product development.”

As any frequent, or even infrequent traveler knows, there are so many aspects of travel that can be difficult, complicated or irksome, and it may be a comfort to realize that VOCIER understands and experiences these issues too. And will be looking for solutions all along the way.