Meet David Laferriere, a designer and illustrator known for the creative doodles he draws every day on the sandwich bags in his kids’ lunch boxes. In 2009 he started a Flickr site to document all of the designs, and the Internet eventually caught on; he’s been featured on countless blogs, news sites and magazines.
Here, we ask the lunch box pro all about the inspiration behind his designs, plus some of the best reactions he’s received from audiences. We also asked him to illustrate a bag just for us — scroll down to the bottom of this post to see it!
Tell us about your background and how you became a graphic designer.
I’ve always liked to draw. I started taking art lessons when I was 10 after a teacher noticed I had some art talent. I always knew I wanted to be an artist and designer. During high school I took a vocational track in Commercial Design and went on to Rhode Island School of Design, where I got my BFA in Illustration.
How did you start illustrating the sandwich bags and start your Flickr site?
I just wanted to jumpstart my creative juices in the morning and have some fun with my kids. After doing a couple of bags I noticed that they weren’t returning home. I wanted to photograph the sandwich bags and used Flickr to store and keep track of them.
How do you get inspiration for the drawings? Do you feel pressure every morning to top the other ones you’ve done?
Inspiration can be whatever pops in my head, a holiday, the current season or something that we recently did as a family. The only pressure is time. I don’t try to top the previous drawing. I just have some fun with it and I think it shows when looking at a whole bunch of them.
My kids like the bags, as do their friends. I’ve been told that sometimes their friends will take the lunch bag just so they can see what the drawing is that day. My younger son likes the worms and other creatures that are coming out of the bread. The other son says he’s “apathetically enthused by all the drawings.”
As for any that have bombed…well, there have been a handful that I just tossed and started on another. I don’t worry about the drawings being perfect.
How did your illustrations go viral? What have people’s reactions been – teachers, friends, around the Web?
Sharpie Markers found me in June of 2009, about a year after I started posting the bags on Flickr. I always include “Sharpie” as one of the tags. One of the habits I have is always putting tags on the Flickr images. I also have joined some Flickr groups where I share certain themes with specific groups like “Sharpie Love,” “Make Something Cool Every Day,” “International Monster’s Day,” “Creatures of the Mind,” “Are You Game?,” “Draw A Dinosaur Day,” and “GeekDads.”
The GeekDad’s blog on Wired.com featured my Valentine’s bags in 2012 and then did a feature on them in November. Someone at Gizmodo saw the GeekDad post and did a feature on Gizmodo Food in January 2013. From that point on, it just exploded. The Daily Flickr Blog featured me in March, and on April 19 I was featured on My Flickr Moment. Around that time in April I experienced the most views for one day of over 524,000.
I started out 2013 with around 100,000 views; that’s for the previous four years. As of today, I have over 5,770,000 views on my Flickr site. Early on I treated a good chunk of my Facebook friends by posting the bags. When the school year ended I would get messages about how they will miss the bags.
I have gained notoriety all around the world because of the Web: Brazil, Spain, Italy, England, South Korea and Japan, to name a few countries.
What’s in your kids’ lunch boxes? Who makes the sandwiches? What are their favorite sandwiches?
My youngest has always had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. My oldest likes just about anything from turkey to tuna fish to ham and cheese. Each one gets a juice, piece of fruit and a snack.
I make the sandwiches when they are with me. I went through a divorce last year, and their Mom makes their sandwiches when they are with her.
What’s been the most rewarding part about doing this?
The comments I get from people range from “Will you adopt me?” to “I remember my Mom” drawing a picture or writing a note and putting it in their lunch.” I had a grandparent write me recently who said that she draws on her grandson’s bags and it has helped him make some new friends.
Here’s the bag David drew just for Williams-Sonoma. He was inspired by the history of our brand, which was founded in Sonoma, the heart of California’s Wine Country.
“Sometimes I draw something that I may pack with their lunches,” he said. “Today I drew grapes. When I get home from work I will ask my son, ‘How we’re those grapes?’ He’ll probably look at me puzzled for a few seconds before it hits him that I meant the drawing, and I’ll get a smile, along with a ‘good’ reply.”