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Plastic Bags With A Deathwish

Image courtesy designboom

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?

Image courtesy designboom

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.

[via designboom]

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11 Comments

  1. Avinash wrote:

    Utterly thoughtless. And it won an award? Great. Just great.

  2. gunjan wrote:

    Hmmm.. Doesn’t work.. one of those futile emotions will invoke thoughtfulnes exercises .. humans are still not so sensitive .. if the cruel war deaths cant shake them.. printed coffin bags will never!

  3. maddy wrote:

    erm. It looks quite dumb to me.

  4. How pointless. It is a disgrace how it got an award.

  5. aindri wrote:

    hahahahaha, I can imagine Ruchita banging on the keyboard, very humourous article :)

  6. Ruchita wrote:

    oye…it hasn’t won an award yet people….it’s merely been shortlisted for one

  7. Amogh wrote:

    and what if the design becomes popular because of the “message”? it might reach more no. of people but each one with one plastic bag ! i think one must evaluate one’s eco-friendly ideas with a simple equation : if it causes more good that harm considering all the aspects (broadly the environmental costs of manufacture, logistics and communication of the design)its a good design.
    Looks too simple, but think about it….

    • Avinash wrote:

      I wish the message in this case was so strongly stated that your argument might hold true. Unfortunately, this is weak messaging couched in a harmful product.
      I really don’t see how this concept might conceivably work.

  8. Mohit Karekar wrote:

    guys i think you are looking at it in a wrong perspective.. it is for the countries like India where avoiding plastic bag is a bit idealistic thought..and Ruchita if u would read the original design info posted on designboom correctly you will understand that the bag is not made in the coffin shape but its the usual day to day plastic bag which just modified by using origami folds. hence not manufacturing new plastic bags.. i think this can be a very good government campaign where the only plastic bags u r allowed to use in the market which in result decrease the use of them.

  9. Ruchita wrote:

    @Mohit: thanks for your comment. If you re-read my post, nowhere have I said that the plastic bags are coffin shaped.

    I reserve the right to my opinions on other counts.

  10. [...] is an example of just how bad greenwashing can get and reminds me of a similar post we featured sometime back. If the idea here was to encourage sustainable and eco friendly attitudes [...]

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