M&S Birth of a Brand - Carrier Bags

Discussion and activity ideas

This page suggests ways in which old and new images can be used with different subjects, as prompts for classroom and homework activities.

KS2/3 Design and Technology
  • In 1903 what materials would have been available to make carrier bags from? What materials are carrier bags made from today?
  • Examine the properties of the different materials that can be used to make carrier bags.
  • Collect three plastic carrier bags from different producers or shops fill each of them with the same items e.g. bags of sugar, and see which breaks first or stretches the most.
  • Create a carrier bag design project. You will need to decide:
    • what the bag is for and what type of customer it is going to appeal to?
    • what will it need to hold, what size will it be, how strong does it need to be?
    • what will it be made of, how durable should it be, will it be recyclable?
    • who will make it and where, will the makers comply with 'Fairtrade principles'? ( see the link below)
    • what will it look like, what words and images are you going to use? 
    • how many will you need to produce and how much will that cost?  
KS2/3 Art & Design
  • Look carefully at the different design styles and fonts used in these carrier bags. Find examples of fonts that were fashionable in 1900s, 1930s, 1950s and 1960s. Other M&S resources have examples of different font styles, Buildings and Signage and Biscuit Tins
  • What are the main differences between the designs from 1903 and 2010?  
  • Look at the pictures of the archive-inspired M&S 'bags for life' on the next page. Design your own archive-inspired bag using images from the M&S pages as inspiration. Create an exhibition of your designs in school - you could ask other classes to vote for their favourite.

KS2/3/4 Citizenship

  • In 2008 M&S introduced a charge for carrier bags. Customers were asked at the checkout if they wanted a 5p bag (most of this goes to charity). It was done to encourage people to use their own bags to conserve limited resources, promote sustainability, and cut down on waste and litter. Organise a class debate about charging for carrier bags and record the 'pros and cons'.
  • What changes in peoples' behaviour might this policy achieve?
  • Create a campaign to encourage people in your school and community to conserve resources and recycle more. What would you need to do to get everyone involved and supporting the idea? Look at this resource about campaigns for inspirational ideas.


Recycle - use waste material to create new products

Sustainability - renewable, able to continue for an indefinite period without damaging the environment

Policy - a principle to help make decisions

Conserve - to prevent loss or waste

Campaign - to support or fight for something you believe in

Debate - to discuss from different points of view

Resources - materials or services that help people achieve their aims

Fonts - the style of letters and numbers

Fairtrade - an organisation that promotes fairness and sustainability about business

Download the M&S Birth of a Brand timeline.

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