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Ikea Sees the Future & Calls It “Democratic Design”

Recently Ikea hosted its annual Democratic Design Days event, where the company introduces its upcoming collections and collaborations. First held in 2014, with journalists, bloggers and influencers invited to the company’s headquarters in Älmhult, Sweden, this year’s event was live streamed for all to see.

The concept of “democratic design” was introduced by French designer and visionary Phillipe Stark as “design that provides quality pieces at accessible prices.” Ikea adopted and expanded this idea around five key principles: form, function, sustainability, quality and low price.

Democratic design is a way of life for the Ikea brand and it is inspired by research into how people live in, work in and play in their homes.  “It’s from so many places, but mostly it’s actually from people and doing home visits” said Marcus Engman, head of design at Ikea.  “Coming as close as possible to real people and finding out their needs. We talk about reaching people. That’s what everyone is doing, but I think it’s actually more important to side with people. It’s a big difference between trying to reach people and trying to side with them. We want to be on their level and really understand the how and why.”

Key to Success in Design:
Focus on the Needs & Desires of the Customers

Ikea is spreading the gospel of “democratic design” across the globe through its 300-plus stores in 25 countries and its rapidly growing internet presence. Ikea believes that “everyone has the right to a better everyday life,” and its commitment to “democratic design” is the means to achieve that.

During its Democratic Design Days, Ikea announced a number of new collaborations and product lines it is developing. Here are some highlights:

Ikea And Adidas Partner On Healthy Living

Adidas is partnering with Ikea to explore how their brands and respective specialties – sports and living spaces – can help people create a healthier lifestyle. Aimed first at discovering ways to make exercising at home easier, the partners will send a team of researchers into people’s homes in different countries and life stages to understand their wellness challenges and the role that the home environment can play in encouraging healthy exercise, sleeping and eating practices.

“Home is where we create lifelong habits. Teaming up with Adidas, we want to understand what wellness means to different people, and what role their living spaces play in this,” Marcus Engman, head of design at Ikea, said. “By doing so, we can create homes that are better designed to enable better habits and more active living.”  No date is set for product introductions.

Ikea And Lego Play Well Together

As Scandinavian neighbors and beloved brands, this new collaboration between Ikea and Lego Group is natural. “It started with an invitation from the Lego Group. ‘Do you want to play?’” explained Fredrika Inger, business area manager for Children’s Ikea in Sweden.

“Of course, we said yes to this and together we now want to enable more play by triggering play in the functionality of the everyday life. Because we believe more play makes the home and the world a better place,” she continued.

With both companies’ grounding their collaboration on research, they will work to overcome one of the primary barriers of play in the home – it is messy – to make play time more fun and fulfilling for all.

“In the Lego Group our mission has always been to inspire and develop children through play,” shared Lena Dixen, SVP product development at the Lego Group. “There’s an exciting and fun challenge in finding a solution that can encourage more creative Lego play while at the same time pleasing parents’ interest in household look and feel to enable children and their parents to play together.”

Products in the Lego collaboration will be introduced over the next couple of  years.

Ikea And Stefan Diez Make Democratic Design Work

Outside of the house, people spend the most time at work, but that workplace is increasingly coming into the home. Together with industrial designer Stefan Diez, Ikea will envision the future of work and how workplaces must adapt to new job requirements.

“We know that the definition of what a job is changes a lot right now. In fact the only constant we see in the future is change itself,” Engman said. “Going forward we believe that the sustainable approach to work and workplaces is to set up structures that are built for change,” he continued, noting the new prototype workplace designs will be tested starting in 2019 at the Ikea Democratic Design Centre in Älmhult.

Virgil Abloh To Bring Cutting-Edge Fashion Home

Newly named artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection and CEO of Milan-based fashion house Off-White, Virgil Abloh is working with Ikea to design a home decor line minimalistic in form and geometric in style. A highlight of the line, called Makerad, is an area rug that has an image of an Ikea sales receipt printed in black-and-white. It takes logo labeling to a whole new level in a fun, in-your-face way.

Besides the statement rug, the Makerad line spans functional objects like a chair, daybed, table, as well as a clear glass cabinet to display curiosities and collectibles.

“Virgil has a fantastic ability to work with essential functions and basic materials and create something new. Each Makerad item is both a design object and a piece with high artistic value,” said Henrik Most, creative leader for the upcoming collection that will be available for a limited time starting in 2019.

Save water to save the planet with Altered

Ikea is getting behind startup company Altered to develop a cost-effective water-saving nozzle that can be fitted to most taps, enabling customers to reduce water use by over 90%, the company claims. With Ikea committed to becoming “water positive” by 2020 and reduce the impact of water throughout its supply chain, it also believes helping its customers reduce water usage is a goal worth working toward.

“Our aim is to partner up with innovative companies to develop solutions that reduce water consumption, recycle water, clean water and harvest energy from used water,” said Marie Olsson, business leader in bedroom & bathroom at Ikea of Sweden.

“We choose to collaborate with Altered because we had similar values, similar thinking around product design and because we realized that we would have a greater positive impact on the world if we worked together,” she continued. The new water nozzle, called Misteln, will appear in all Ikea stores in August 2019.

Design for all

As a final word of advice to designers, Engman stress the importance of not losing the craft that makes design happen. “You need to know what good looks like, as well as also being able to do the thinking and the processes. We have a tendency now to focus on the process part that we lost the craft. Keep the craft alive.”

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