Mass manufacturing "a risk to drive progress and alter" say IKEA design managers

With IKEA turning 80 this 12 months, Dezeen spoke to its international design managers Eva Lilja Löwenhielm and Johan Ejdemo about AI, working with exterior designers and why it stays a “distinctive low-price model”.

Löwenhielm and Ejdemo oversee Swedish furnishings model IKEA’s 23 in-house designers, in addition to the 200-or-so freelance designers that assist create its 2,000-2,500 new merchandise per 12 months.

Whereas some design to particular pitches for various areas of the house, Löwenhielm and Ejdemo additionally work with groups which can be trying additional forward.

“Some designers give us pitches or are in shut collaboration with our enterprise areas, after which we additionally work with what we name collections, the place we’re extra explorative or inquisitive about issues,” Löwenhielm mentioned.

“We’re in some early exploration tasks as effectively, the place we’re working with our innovation groups and searching into issues which can be possibly 5 to 10 years forward.”

In addition to creating in-house collections, IKEA additionally incessantly collaborates with outdoors designers and not too long ago labored with Dutch designer Sabine Marcelis on the Varmblixt assortment.

IKEA has collaborated with Sabine Marcelis

In accordance with Löwenhielm and Ejdemo, that is symptomatic of the model’s curiosity about designs that differ from its personal.

“We’re inquisitive about different expressions that we do not usually do, or which can be questioning,” Löwenhielm mentioned. “And people rely upon the collaborators. So that’s the starting – why will we do that collaboration collectively?”

“An instance may very well be a curiosity about how we carry mild into the house another way,” added Ejdemo. “It could be fairly near what we do, however nonetheless have a really particular perspective.”

“We are going to proceed to evolve within the methods we collaborate, and the portfolio of collaborations would possibly look completely different sooner or later than it has previously – most likely it would as a result of we attempt to enhance as effectively.”

Chairs from IKEA's Nytillverkad collection
IKEA’s Nytillverkad assortment options vibrant chairs

The model’s designs have typically been tailored and copied, with plenty of firms providing their very own designs that can be utilized to refurbish present IKEA merchandise – one thing that Ejdemo sees as a optimistic factor.

“I personally have a really optimistic view of it. We allow creativity and we allow artistic options at house,” he mentioned.

These diversifications can even assist the IKEA group perceive what individuals need from their merchandise, in keeping with the design managers.

“We in all probability study loads ourselves about issues that we would not be doing that we ought to be doing,” Ejdemo mentioned.

“However these options that we discuss with, they would not slot in our imaginative and prescient of being inexpensive – they typically turn into extraordinarily costly, and might take a number of time earlier than you get them.”

Bastua collection with Marimekko for IKEA
Finnish model Marimekko labored with IKEA on the Bastua assortment

Up to now few years, IKEA has closed plenty of its bigger shops and created smaller areas in metropolis centres together with a car-free retailer in Vienna with a gridded facade and a Copenhagen retailer with a rooftop park that’s set to open this 12 months.

The model can be set to open a retailer on London’s Oxford Road this autumn.

This variation from bigger out-of-town shops to smaller shops hasn’t affected the best way through which the merchandise are designed, in keeping with the design supervisor duo.

“We nonetheless have the identical design ideas and we attempt to be the place persons are,” Ejdemo mentioned.

Whereas clients are actually maybe extra more likely to see the merchandise on-line earlier than going to an IKEA retailer, the one factor that has been affected is the model’s logistics.

“The one change we’re working in the direction of is making the dimensions of the packaging extra accessible for on-line gross sales,” mentioned Löwenhielm. “We’ve got at all times tried to minimise the fabric use and be sensible.”

“With IKEA, you at all times design [products] to suit right into a field,” Ejdemo mentioned. “We do not wish to transport air, that sits inside sustainability and prices as effectively.”

“It is within the DNA when doing an IKEA product design – you can’t do the design with out having an concept of how it may be damaged down to suit into packaging,” he added.

AI generated visualisations of a green couch that does not follow the conventions of a couch
An AI got here up with a whole lot of iterations of a foldable couch for Space10

Up to now 12 months, synthetic intelligence (AI) has begun to have an rising affect on the structure and design industries, with structure studios, together with Zaha Hadid Architects, utilizing it to get inspiration for tasks.

Among the many design outfits to have used it’s Space10, IKEA’s analysis collective, which not too long ago created an idea for a foldable sofa.

The expertise has additionally been picked up by the designers working with Löwenhielm and Ejdemo.

“The design group is taking part in round with it already as a result of they mess around with every little thing new, that is simply the character of who they’re,” Ejdemo mentioned.

“[Not using it] could be as incorrect as saying that images would not be fascinating for us as a result of we’re portray such lifelike photos,” he added. “Clearly, we’re inquisitive about what’s coming sooner or later.”

IKEA Assembling the Future Together
IKEA confirmed the Assembling the Future exhibition at Milan design week

The corporate not too long ago celebrated its eightieth anniversary with an exhibition at Milan design week that checked out IKEA’s previous in addition to its future.

“We at all times get the query of what has to vary and learn how to keep related, ” Ejdemo mentioned. “We’re at all times reflecting the society that we’re in.”

“However there are additionally a number of issues in IKEA which can be a continuing – we all know now we have a imaginative and prescient, we all know who we’re: we’re for a lot of, possibly not for everybody,” he added.

“We’ve got an concept that’s to make merchandise which can be inexpensive. If our merchandise make you cheerful, make it easier to think about learn how to remedy one thing in your house and do not put an enormous gap in your pockets, that is form of what we do beneath our imaginative and prescient.”

IKEA interior
IKEA is a “distinctive low-price model” Ejdemo mentioned

Whereas mass-production typically carries detrimental connotations, Ejdemo argued that IKEA sees it as a possibility to drive progress and affect industries.

“For us, [mass-production is] a risk to drive progress and alter and really affect industries to enhance and turn into higher,” he added. “Low-price is an final result of doing that extra effectively.”

“I often say that we’re a low-price band however not any low-price model, we’re a really distinctive low-price model with a really distinctive perspective on what we do,” Ejdemo mentioned.

“There are only a few firms that make investments as a lot in design as we do at IKEA.”

“We’re additionally a progressive firm that wishes to lean ahead, like [with] AI, and I am positive there will probably be errors there as effectively,” Ejdemo added.

“However we’re an organization that encourages errors, so long as we do not repeat them.”

The images is courtesy of IKEA.

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