Thursday Salute to Originals: The Brown Paper Bag
Brown paper bags serve a functional but personal purpose in daily routines: container of homemade PB+J sandwiches, canvas for scrawling your name to distinguish it from your peers, satchel to transport tasty potato chips (grease stains and all)… then it’s thrown out at the end of the day! Have you ever wondered, does the brown paper bag feel unappreciated?
We’re willing to bet you have never stopped to ponder who created such a basic item and its history. According to FastCo Design, the brown paper bag was a hot commodity in the mid-19th century. The most significant advancement in its design was made by Margaret Knight of the Columbia Paper Bag Company in Massachusetts, who dreamed up the flat bottom that we still use today. Then, Charles Stilwell developed the pleated sides to make for easier, flatter folding. We still use both of these methods in today’s standard brown paper bags. A product perfected by iterative design, we love it!
And now, designer Ilvy Jacobs of the Netherlands has put yet another spin on the icon – a series of intricate folds transform the bags into lunchtime sculpture. By beautifying this basic item, Jacobs hopes to reduce waste and encourage extended use of the bags, instead of their usual one-day lifespan that ends in a trash can.
From basic functionalism to everyday luxury, is the brown paper bag truly “industrial origami”?