Marcus Johnsson is Pacsafe’s VP of Bag Design, resident comic book freak, and wearer of all things black. Like most of the Pacsafe crew, he is a travel nut and has the passport stamps to prove it – 60 countries and counting, including quirky destinations like Mount Everest and North Korea. Born in Sweden, he has also lived in Singapore, New York and Hong Kong.
When Marcus isn’t designing our next bag style he can be found sitting deep in thought, twirling his mustache and hatching other mad scientist schemes.
We sat down with Marcus to see what makes him tick, get his views on good design and find out why he finds inspiration in figuring out patterns, rather than people.
Tell us about yourself and how you first encountered your love for design?
I’m not sure there’s a single defining moment for when I discovered the passion for design. For me, it’s more that my creative mode of expression has become focussed on building products. Maybe that’s because there is something very satisfying about creating physical objects you can interact with; touch and feel. They often bring happiness to the ones using them, and I love to be able to create something I know that people want and can have a personal connection to.
Why has that evolved into bag design specifically?
I think it’s because they sit right between fashion and industrial design – it’s not one or the other, it’s both and it’s none. Bags offer a lot of challenges because you’re working with tailored textile products with a 3D shape, but unlike apparel, it needs to keep its sculptured shape on its own. On the other side, unlike the hard objects industrial designers traditionally work with, a bag is usually constructed without moldable materials.
What are you trying to achieve when incorporating an ‘anti-theft’ feature into bag?
Anti-theft sounds a bit harsh, but the reality is that we’re offering peace of mind. Imagine you’re in a bar, restaurant, on the beach, street basketball court, or any place where you want to enjoy the moment. Then imagine how much more enjoyable that moment would be if you didn’t have to worry about your bag or belongings. That’s what Pacsafe is about. You might not always be in a situation where you need anti-theft features on a bag, but I’m pretty sure that you’ve been in situations where you wish that you had them. That’s why we design bags that look great, with the only differentiator that our bags have on-the-go security where other bags don’t.
Where do you find inspiration when creating new designs?
My personal inspiration is somewhat different from where I gain inspiration professionally. Generally, inspiration is holistic rather than specific. It’s about observing and collecting, remembering how things were yesterday, laying out a direction, and figuring out what will happen next. The more you observe the past, and are aware of the present, the more you’ll understand about the future.
It’s really exciting and inspiring when you manage to see the patterns and understand the flows of trends and behaviors.
Do you let your personal taste flow into the designs of your bags?
I don’t believe in creating design based on your personal taste as much, as conveying the essence of the brand. But that said, I’m sure you’ll see my Scandinavian heritage and love for minimalism being enhanced in the Pacsafe we’ve grown used to seeing. Pacsafe bags are technically complex, so minimalistic aesthetics create a harmonious balance and a more inclusive feel towards the product. It’s all about creating a harmony between user and bag.
What’s your personal favorite design in the Pacsafe range?
The Travelsafe 5L is a solid companion when traveling. It’s flat and easy to pack and is perfect for locking up your valuables inside any bag, hotel room, airplane etc. That versatile security pretty much sums up the personality of Pacsafe in one style.
I also carry the Ultimatesafe 15 as my day-to-day bag, because it provides me with a hardcore looking bag, as well as the 360 exomesh lockability found in the Travelsafes. It gives me full freedom and I don’t have to worry about my belongings, as I can easily lock it up when going for a swim, or grabbing a beer after work.
What about outside of work? What gets you excited?
Travel is an obvious one. There’s just so many amazing places, adventures, and experiences out there it would be a shame to miss out on them, whether it’s hiking to the base camp of Mount Everest, visiting remote islands of Papua New Guinea, or walking through the dull museums of North Korea.
I’m big into graphic novels as well, whether it’s reading them or writing my own. Charles Burns and Ozamu Tezuka are my big heroes when it comes to that art form. I just recently managed to get over two original inked pages from my two favorite Swedish artists; Joakim Pirinen and Max Andersson!
Finally, what are you working on at the moment?
Haha, I’m not sure if that’s anything I can share here. But I can tell you that there are a lot of cool innovations and unique new products in the works. The team has some interesting things in the brew.
By Tim Hawken
Tim Hawken is an Australian writer who enjoys surfing, Indian food and romantic midnight strolls to the beer fridge. He has clocked up visits to 23 countries on 5 continents (and counting). Find out more about his weird world by heading to his website, or following him on Instagram and Twitter.