“Durable,” “unique” and “authentic” describe the Freitag bag, a Swiss-made carryall manufactured entirely from recycled materials. The same adjectives can also be applied to the book Freitag-Individual Recycled Freeway Bags, published by Lars Muller Publishers. The book takes a look at the company’s premier product and its success. And, like Freitag bags, which are produced from recycled truck tarpaulins, car seat belts and bicycle tires, the book incorporates similar materials in its production, making each copy in its 10,000 editions unique.
“I’ve been taken with the product and the story behind it ever since the bag first emerged from Zurich’s ‘underground’ scene,” explains Lars Muller, the book’s Switzerland-based designer and publisher. “It’s an example of how pseudo-individual, mass-produced items can be countered by something truly individual.” Made entirely by hand, the unpretentious Freitag bag has distanced itself from trendy, brand-driven products as a durable and radical “anti-brand” alternative for youthful, European urbanites who have made it their choice for toting personal necessities.
In addition to using Freitag materials for the book’s spine, Muller successfully selected type and imagery that capture the Freitag spirit. The book integrates photos of 3,000 bags with candid portraits of their owners; colorful snapshots reveal a glimpse of the divergent lifestyles that form the fabric of contemporary Europe. The book’s simple, direct text is cropped in a haphazard way, much as it is on Freitag bags, where prior incarnations of the bags are revealed with casual frankness. Even the Freitag production process is depicted in forthright fashion with no-nonsense, diagrammatic illustrations of the bags’ recycling and manufacturing process.
A Norwegian who has lived in Switzerland since 1963, Lars Muller established his studio in Baden in 1982 after apprenticing as a graphic artist and working as a peripatetic student in the United States and Holland. In 1983, he established Lars Muller Publishers in Wettingen, Switzerland. Since then, the company has achieved international recognition for producing books on architecture, design and contemporary photography. Your Private Sky: R. Buckminster Fuller, another book by Lars Muller Publishers, received a Graphics Best of Category award from I.D. in 2000. Since 1996, Muller has been a partner in the Integral Concept interdisciplinary design group, which operates in Paris, Milan and Baden.
WHAT WAS YOUR OVERALL OBJECTIVE?
The spectacular drama of daily life inspired this book. It’s about ideas and processes and the people who contribute to a product that’s as typical of its time as it is unusual. Although I initiated the project, I worked with a marvelous team. That’s how we usually do it here.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE SPECIAL APPEAL OF THE BOOK?
It’s the first really individual book, with 10,000 different covers, according to the concept of the bags. It’s also a visual read about design communication and the lifestyles of the Freitag generation.
HOW HAVE THOSE WHO HAVE SEEN THE BOOK REACTED TO IT?
The best reaction is that the young, urban crowd has bought the book and likes it because it’s very visual and interactive in its content and structure. As an object, it’s appropriate to the content with its spine made
CLIENT Lars Muller Publishers, Wettingen, Switzerland: Lars Muller, principal
DESIGN Integral Lars Muller, Wettingen, Switzerland: Lars Muller, principal; Sandra Neumaier, designer; Markus Reichenbach, typography
MATERIALS|FABRICATION offset-printed, case-bound book with chipboard covers and spine made from recycled tarpaulins
HARDWARE|SOFTWARE Macintosh G4, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, QuarkXPress from bag material.