Tote bag tips 

The first blockbuster tote bag arrived in London in 2007. Created by luxury designer Anya Hindmarch, the beige cloth bag was printed with the words “I’m not a plastic bag” in cartoonish type.

It was a statement of fashion, but also environmental awareness, and this was years before sustainable fashion was taken seriously. People queued round the block to get one of the 8,000 bags, and though they were sold for just £5 each, within a day they were going for £175 on eBay.

Since then totes have conquered shoulders all over London. It’s easy to see why — the bags are simple, spacious and versatile. They can be dressed up or down and used to carry practically anything.

They are also prime real estate for promotiontotes, like t-shirts, are a way customers and fans express their interests and personality, often sporting bags printed with the names of events, bands or logos that they love.

You’ve probably picked them out of the crowd, the iconic designs that seem to capture the public imagination — the simple line drawings of a Daunt Books tote, the hip sketch on the Bao restaurant bags, the impressionistic logo of the Tate museums or the eye-catching designs of our client Artwords Books. In fact, we’ve printed tote bags for a wide range of clients over clients over the years, including London College of Communication, Harvey Nichols and Sandows Coffee Roasters

Totes are a great tool for inexpensive promotion, but how do you design a bag that will advertise your brand that customers will still want to wear time and again? We’ve collected eight top tips to help you make sure your tote bag makes the right impression, along with some images to show our favourite examples of bold, eye-catching tote bags. 

Make a statement

You want an eye-catching design people will turn to look at and remember for a long time afterwards. Tote bags are a cost-effective form of brand exposure, but it’s your job to make people take notice.

Collaborate with an artist

Some of the most successful totes use visual art and graphic design in innovative ways. Try partnering with an artist whose style you like to create a unique tote that taps into contemporary trends. It could even be the first in a series of collectible collaborations — many people keep more than one bag in their closet.

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Representing in Hong Kong

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Make it specific

Promoting a particular event that only comes around once a year? Make the memory last by creating a tote that people can take on their way out of the door. It will keep your brand in people’s minds, and advertise your future events to boot.

Keep the branding clear

Make sure to make the name of your brand clear and easy to read at a glance — people aren’t going to work to decipher the small-print at the bottom of a bag. It’s important to make the design attractive with a striking logo, but don’t forget to make it clear what you’re advertising in the first place.

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Good news for those of you that don’t live in east London, or in London for that matter: our XL tote bag is now available online. The bag retails for £15 + shipping, and is available on our website via

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Use humour

Few would go in for jokes on their trousers, but tote bags are a comedy-friendly space in fashion. An amusing sentence or drawing can be a good way to attract attention, and it gives your brand a friendly charm.

Use all of the space

Make sure the design is visible from a distance, even to someone across the road or passing on a bicycle. Totes can be quite sizeable, so you have a substantial canvas (if you’ll pardon the pun). Make sure you make the most of it.

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We're excited about taking part in this Sunday and Monday's RAW wine fair in London. Come and see us for tote bags, back issues and the new Noble Rot 13 featuring Francis Ford Coppola, Mike D, Giles Coren & Marina O'Loughlin.

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Keep the colours simple

Of course hot pink is more eye-catching than beige, but is someone really going to be accessorising with a hot pink bag no matter their outfit? The reason totes generally come in muted colours is so people will wear them day in, day out. Make your bag design as versatile as possible.

Be bold

Many of the best totes use typography in interesting ways — look at the overlapping type on the New Yorker totes found in coffee shops across the city. Use thick letters, bold type and simple sentences. The alphabet can be a surprisingly creative canvas, if you put your mind to it.

Thinking about printing tote bags for your business or brand? At ICON Printing we offer fast turnaround printing with an extensive catalogue. Get in touch for a quote today.