Carried away

Photograph of a Pret a Manger paper bag

I have a thing for paper carrier bags.

Classic, plain and brown, unadorned, small and crisp from the local takeaway. Heavy, white and thoughtfully decorated or embossed with a special purchase inside. Colourfully wrapped around with an image that bespeaks a fashion moment or clever branding. Folded paper or string handles. Lovely things.

There is a utilitarian usefulness to them. Perfectly proportioned and fit for their purpose. I like the fact that they aren’t constantly re-usable in the way plastic bags are. They soon wilt and are over, like cut flowers. You could argue their eco-friendliness but I won’t. My interest is in their ephemerality and much more selfish.

The paper bag has re-entered the marketplace recently with the expansion of take-away food chains. Whether your fancy is coffee, sandwiches or sushi, it invariably comes to you in a small paper bag. Imparting a little down-home local deli ambience to a big business purchase.

If you are going to buy a coffee and a croissant, it is going to taste better out of a paper cup, carried in a paper bag. It is going to taste even better out of a nicely designed Pret A Manger paper bag. A grand and witty campaign has been running through their shop designs and packaging for some months now. Taking surrealism back to the streets – there is a house of toast on this one – the campaign is full of quirky visual puns, animals made from strange bits of food and rather ironic ‘make it at home’ recipes.

Someone has persuaded the company not to take marketing and publicity too seriously and made me a bag worth putting on a shelf.


simon robinson

Does this mean you’ll be dropping by to collect those Design Museum bags I’ve been saving for you? Simon.


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