Designers have figured out how to make airsick passengers smile

Seat pocket surprise.
Seat pocket surprise.
Image: Gemma O'Brien
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Next time you’re on a plane, reach into the seat pocket for a surprise: Graphic designers, lettering artists and calligraphers are using airsickness bags as canvas for tongue-in-cheek illustrations.

It’s all part of the #SpewBagChallenge, Australian artist Gemma O’Brien’s 2012 call to designers to apply their skills to improve the look of airsickness bags. #SpewBagChallenge encourages improvisation and word play, and designers who answered O’Brien’s call to doodle have used the airline bags as an outlet for jokes or political angst. There are now over 875 signed barf bag masterpieces on Instagram.

Speaking at the AIGA conference in Las Vegas on Oct. 18, the 29-year old Sydney-based artist described that she uses long haul flights as a time for mind-clearing drawing. A sought-after lettering artist who travels the world painting murals of pithy corporate mantras on office walls, O’Brien says she often leaves her calligraphic mini masterpieces in the seat pocket or gives them to her seat mate.

A few other artists’ designs: