After a good night's rest, I was ready to be wowed by IKEA of Sweden (IoS). I was told that this is where IKEA is most IKEA. The DNA thickest. The heart. And indeed it is.
The new extension of IoS opened not that many weeks ago and there were still many unsettled corners in the building. Spots of chaos aside, it was new and shiny. It has an amazing expansiveness about it. Lots of light, blond wood and dashes of colour.
We arrived at the same time the co-workers were getting in. They were busy getting their morning coffee, sandwiches. We, tourists, went crazy for knäckebröd - a type of crispbread - slathered with Swedish honey. There were muffled talking, mingling, laughing. It felt like I entered a buzzing hive.
|The lobby with stacks of the new catalogue - in different languages.|
|The 'stairs' overlooking the cafeteria. I love this!|
|The cafeteria - the lively busy hive.|
One day, while walking in one of the fields he noticed the weed - the dandelion - and how common yet beautiful it was. It was the seed thought that inspired him to created a dandelion-like chandelier. But the initial design was way too complex with too many parts to put together and could not pass the IKEA process. Through numerous revisions, the MASKROS bloomed and became a bestseller. (And a lamp we love to hack it: Like this, this, this)
His MASKROS story brought to life the concept of "Democratic Design" which is the starting point for every IKEA product design. "Democra-what?" Big term and I'm sure I had a "huh?" look on my face. Marcus explained that Democratic Design is essentially a just-right combination of form, function, quality and sustainability at an affordable price, in order to offer good design to as many people as possible. It is the backbone of every IKEA product. Some products are high on design, not so low on price. Some the other way around, but every product takes into consideration these 5 elements.
With the "conceptual stuff" behind us, we toured the facility. With the expansion, the design process now takes place all under one roof. And that has helped shorten the process dramatically. Previously, it took almost 2 years for an idea to leap off a designer's sketchbook to the retail floor. Now, it may take half that time or less, which IoS is continually pushing for. So let's hope we see more timely on-trend designs from IKEA.
|Prototype centre for 3D models. No, IKEA is not coming up flatpacked faces.|
|Prototype centre: Printing new textiles to be made into slipcovers, etc.|
|This is not the new range.|
|Me doing some "product testing"|
|The design team|
|Learning from designers Knut Hagberg and Johanna Jelinek|
The risk management team who handles any reports of product failures, accidents, etc. They issue recalls and learn from these recalls to ensure that no similar accidents happen in the future. I must admit I've always had question marks about IKEA product recalls. Don't you? What's with all this stuff that fail or have safety issues? That day I had a mindshift about recalls. It stems for their low tolerance for product failures. Despite their best efforts to test and retest, a company can never fully know the ways in which their products will be applied and used (er ... IKEA hacking for example). When there are reports of incidents of product failure, IKEA will not hesitate to recall the product. The incident is then investigated and findings fed back to their design process to come up with a better, safer product.
|The Risk Management team sharing what comes out of a recall|
|It was a wet day at Älmhult|
|This machine opens and shuts the cabinets|
|Test machine mimics a sitting position. Another machine tests jumping on beds.|
|A giant mock-up of the bedroom set featured on the 2015 catalogue cover. |
It is really me jumping in there. Not photoshopped. :)
(Next: The Concept Store and Meeting in Delft. Read it here.)
Photos: Katherine Law