A lifestyle characterised by sun, sand and boardwalks is in plenty of evidence on California’s Newport Beach. It’s also provided the inspiration for a new range of bags from Targus, as it looks to reach out across the Pacific Ocean to new markets.
For the locally based company, this is the first time it has leveraged its ‘Designed in California’ status, as it looks to acquire some of the same sheen that Apple has gained from the term in order to resonate with customers in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region.
With its collections of business and laptop bags, Targus was looking to expand its portfolio with a more contemporary, unisex product. “Historically, Targus is a masculine brand,” explains Huw Bush, global product manager for Targus. “So, we knew that to cater for a diverse range of customer requirements, we had to diversify ourselves.”
It was decided that the new line-up would need to have the aesthetics to allow it to comfortably sit in the handbag department of a store or boutique. By contrast, Targus’ traditional product lines are normally to be found in the technology department.
The company’s insights team had discovered that its Asian customers don’t carry as much or as many large items as their counterparts in other regions. In Asia, it found, there’s a prevalence of sub-14-inch hardware, which allows the designers to make bag silhouettes slimmer and sleeker. Many people also use crowded public transport to travel to work, so the bag needed to be compact.
How the bag is carried is also important: top opening ‘convertible’ bags are more popular in EMEA and North America, while the double-strapped rucksack is more popular in APAC.
Targus debuted its original laptop bag in 1983, and since then, it has spent thousands of hours studying how people work, pack and travel for business.
“We took what we knew about carrying tech and applied it to the different needs in that region and for that customer group,” says Bush, adding that, in a crowded market, it was useful to lean on both its technical understanding and its fashionable design location.
“Our provenance, combined with our brand heritage of laptop protection, is our overall USP. We’ve brought our knowledge and experience in the field into a more fashion-conscious range.”
An example of this is the bright orange lining of the bag, based on the insight that it’s easier to find things inside a bag with a bright lining. This also provides a flash of fun contrast, like an eye-catching jacket lining. In these ways, this lining works on both a practical and a style basis.
With a strong brief in place, Targus’ design team quickly moved on to sketching out designs, from silhouettes through to materials, covering the main bag, trim, zips, lining, foam type and thickness and colour options.
Solidworks was used to produce 3D models for components, such as zipper pullers, to create, prove and test different designs, but the physical prototypes are the most important part of the process, according to Bush. “It’s such a tactile thing,” he says. “We ask key questions like how do the materials feel, do they hold their structure, is foam protection too thick?
These criteria are particularly important in this new, style-focused category, he adds, “where form is possibly more significant than function for the customer.” The most difficult aspect of creating this new range was working with new materials and different construction techniques, all of which posed problems that were worked out through physical prototyping.
“Prototyping is largely our development process. We design, develop and test each prototype, and at each stage, we do the all-important commercial check-ins against cost, market insight and the original proposition,” says Bush.
Typically, it is in the third and fourth stages of prototyping that the design team gets into internal and external user testing, using feedback to refine the designs. By the fifth-generation prototype, the design has usually been finely tuned and this is the version that typically heads into production.
With a range of styles and sizes, the Newport Collection has already built an enthusiastic following, enhancing the everyday bag that easily transitions from the office to outings.
Targus bags design win with stylish new range