Carrying device

Dartmouth students navigate multiple environments and activities every day. We explored ways to help them better manage the things they need to carry. With the insight that students with busy schedules often need to transition between student and professional lives on the fly, we designed a single device that allows for those two personas.


Date: Fall 2017

Studio: Design Thinking, Dartmouth College

Instructors: Peter Robbie, Eugene Korsunskiy

Collaborator: Katherine Flessel

Skills: user research, ethnography, prototyping, user testing/feedback, sketching, journey mapping


We set out to learn about the diverse experiences at Dartmouth to better understand the lives and needs of students. Using principles of design thinking and ethnography, we conducted direct user interviews and observations and found that students valued both the function of their carrying devices and the images they convey.

A common college life

In a college setting, many students, especially upperlassmen, must juggle academia and professionalism. There is a duality: students straddle two lives and need equipment for both. They need to tailor their image for each situation to project a certain identity appropriate for the situation. Our research suggested that students were aware that the things they carried reflected on their personalities and intent. Student lives and academia were associated with casual flexibility, while professionalism was associated with maturity, preparedness, and experience. Many students did not return to their homes after they left in the morning until late at night and did not have the mental, physical, or temporal capacity to interrupt their days by stopping by their rooms.

Students interviewing at the Center for Professional Development felt that their backpacks did not match the desired professional image for the setting.

I would never bring my backpack into an interview...

Target user

Dartmouth upperclassmen need to change their appearances and manage their projected personas in order to transition between academic and professional settings during a busy day.

How might we...

  • ease the transition between academic and professional settings?

  • avoid the need to change bags?

  • control a projected image?

  • fit the part?


Without having to return home to retrieve a more professional looking bag and move their belongings, students can dress the part on the go by inverting a portion of the bag to convert the backpack to a more professional carrying device.

Information and iteration

Through user testing, feedback, and iterative design, we identified pain points and bright spots that informed future adjustments. Learned what was successful and what needed development in the areas of fit with body proportions, form and image of the materials, ease of inversion, strength of structure, and simplicity of design.

A student with no time or ability to be interrupted during her day can quickly convert her casual backpack into a more formal portfolio for an interview.

I would never carry a briefcase around campus...

...I would stand out more if I didn't have a backpack like everyone else on campus.

...a cultural uniform...

I am here to be professional. A backpack is not something you associate with that.

People are reassured by a structured process. They need a confirmation of completion.

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