Plastic Bags With A Deathwish
Called ‘death bags’ by designers Vedang Kulkarni and Aakanksha Rajhans, these coffin shaped plastic bags have recently been shortlisted for the IIDA awards 2010. Their moniker conjures up a rather macabre set of images in one’s head until one realises that by using the powerful image of a coffin, the designers aim to create awareness about the ill effects of the mass use of plastic bags. Their argument for the printed form on the bag is that upon being given the bag, the recipient will be immediately repulsed by the idea of walking around with a coffin on a bag which in turn, will drive home the message that plastic is a “cursed” choice of material.
Interestingly, the designers have created an object whose very use they wish to discourage. This turns out to be a bit of a form vs. function oxymoron when one thinks about it: if their bags are made from plastic (as the prototypes appear to be), are they not defeating the very purpose they were made for? And if they’re never made (supposedly as an eco-conscious choice to avoid plastic), then what was the point of the “design” in the first place?
Function aside, one has to wonder at the semiotics of the product and whether the well-intentioned message of the designers really comes through. Simply printing a black coffin shape on a plain plastic bag cannot possibly create revulsion in one’s mind, not in the least because in using the bag – in unfolding it, filling it and walking around with it – it’s rarely ever going to be seen as a coffin. It’s much more likely to look like a patch of colour on an otherwise boring white bag which is exactly what it looks like to me.
As far as I’m concerned, putting a coffin on a plastic bag is like putting up a neon sign that says “Save Electricity” – it’s an ironic effort at best, pointless at worst.