Swedish Agency Creates Simple but Genius Social Distancing Hack––the ‘No Douchebag’

The tote bags read: "I'd love to sit next to you, just not right now. Thank you for keeping your distance"

Swedish agency has designed the "No Douche Bag” to stop people from sitting next to you on public transport. Forsman & Bodenfors / Västtrafik
Headshot of Sara Spary

When traveling on the packed commuter trains and buses of the prepandemic times (remember those?), it felt incredibly annoying when a fellow commuter took up a whole extra seat with their bag, selfishly leaving you to attempt to balance for the entire journey. But today, with Covid-19 still circulating and sadly claiming the lives of many, creating distance is in everyone’s interest.

Agency Forsman & Bodenfors in Sweden has come up with a simple yet genius solution for public transport operator Västtrafik to help people create space: It has designed the “No Douchebag,” which commuters are actively encouraged to place on the seat next to them to discourage people from getting close.

The first 1,000 of the brightly colored bags were given away for free at Central Station in Gothenburg, Sweden, last week, with more to follow. Text on the design reads: “I’d love to sit next to you, just not right now. Thank you for keeping your distance.”

“Usually, bags on the seat are certainly not something we promote. But during a pandemic, it’s actually an act of consideration,” said Lars Backström, CEO of Västtrafik. “This simple reminder is another way of encouraging individuals to take personal responsibility, which is the fundament in the Swedish strategy. With this bag we want to, in an unexpected way, remind our travelers that we need to continue to work with social distancing.”

Backström added: “If you’re on the bus or the tram and feel worried about people being too close, it’s sometimes hard to tell a fellow passenger to take a step back, not least for us reserved Swedes. We hope and believe that this initiative can help make traveling safer.”

Agency: Forsman & Bodenfors
Client: Västtrafik, Susanne Eriksson
Account director: Greger Andersson
Account manager: Helen Johansson
Art director: Lars Jansson
Copywriter: Pontus Caresten
Graphic designer: Christoffer Persson
PR: Robert Johnsson
Film editing: Assar Wallenius
Production, film and photography: Cutback Studios, Petter Berg

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@saramayspary sara.spary@adweek.com Sara Spary is a freelance journalist based in London. She's been a reporter for eight years, covering advertising and consumer brands.