All of These Tote Bags Aren’t Going to Design Themselves!

More than one iPad-based Cultural Studies Reader of the future will remember these, the early 2010s, as the golden age of the tote bag. Once the province of PBS pledge drives and your spinster piano teacher (hers had piano keys and told the world “Music is my bag!”), totes are taking the world by storm. UnBeige HQ is so full of colorful, eco-friendly alternatives to plastic bags that we have totes for our totes.

A pioneer in the tote craze has been New York’s Strand Book Store, which does a brisk business in classic Strand totes (we like the toile version) as well as an artist series that features illustrations by the likes of Art Spiegelman, David Hockney, and Adrian Tomine. Now the Strand has teamed with the School of Visual Arts, TOON Books, Drawn & Quarterly, and Fantagraphics Books to host a tote bag design contest. Artists and designers from around the world are invited to submit original illustrations representing the Strand and compete for the chance to see their work slapped on a tote that will be sold in the store and online. Other prizes include an afternoon with Françoise Mouly and the gang at TOON Books. You have until March 31 to impress a panel of judges that includes Mouly, Spiegelman, Tomine, and Steven Heller, who knows a good tote bag when he sees one. Go here for more information and to size up the competition.

Those inclined to more philanthropic tote bag design contests can head over to Print, which recently invited a dozen top graphic designers to create totes to benefit the charities of their choice. Christoph Niemann opted for Doctors Without Borders, Deanne Cheuk chose Smile Train, and James Joyce went with the UK branch of Save the Children. You can follow in their charitable footsteps by choosing a favorite cause and creating a design for it that can be printed on a tote. Several designs will be featured in the magazine and one lucky winner’s tote will be produced and sold alongside those of the commissioned designers. Draw fast, because the deadline (March 15) is tote-ally approaching.