Swedish furniture behemoth, IKEA, are setting their sights firmly beyond flat-pack furniture and meatballs. At their annual democratic design day, they announced their collaborations for the coming 2-3 years, ranging from fashion designers, musicians, perfumers, garden designers and even astronomers.
As well as collaborating with big names, they’re mixing up the rules; moving to a more open and inclusive collaboration model, one of free flow of ideas between disciplines and industries.
Each of their collaborations showcase a new, radical approach to design. We’ve explored three of their most progressive.
1) Revealing their inner workings with Virgil Abloh
We’ve been drip-fed snippets of the IKEA x Virgil Abloh (Creative Director of menswear at Louis Vuitton and founder of streetwear giants OffWhite) collaboration for the past year.
Virgil’s subversive designs for Ikea include a range of statement rugs, featuring slogans such as “Keep Off”, emblazoned against black and white Persian motifs, a chair inspired by mid-century American design and a bright red doorstop.
Dedicated fans of Virgil have had the rare opportunity to see the collaboration in progress, through a series of reports including preliminary designs as well as a number of Facebook Live interviews revealing parts of the design process.
When we think about the language and behaviour of ‘drop culture’, we usually think about secrecy and a big reveal. Revealing the inner workings of the process means the collaboration has, in true IKEA style, been much more democratic and conversational.
2) Fighting for a better planet with Little Sun
In line with IKEA’s democratic design ethos, their goal is to make everyday life better for as many of us as possible. Along with their pledge to get rid of single use plastics by 2020, they also acknowledge that if we are to continue to live in clean cities, clean energy is essential.
Fittingly, IKEA announced their collaboration with Little Sun, a small solar power brand run by artist Olafur Eliasson, to create a portable solar light. In addition to the cache of being able to promote products designed by an internationally recognised artist, IKEA hope to appeal to a growing number of eco-conscious consumers.
Aside from being sold in IKEA stores in 2019, the lamps have already been distributed to 10 sub-Saharan African countries, driven by Little Sun’s interest in addressing the needs of some one billion citizens worldwide who live without regular access to electricity.
As our awareness of our impact on the planet seeps deeper into our collective consciousness, consumers are beginning to make purchasing decisions based not just on financial or brand value, but also on ethical value.
3) Getting out of the office with NASA
In 2017, a crew of IKEA designers visited NASA’s Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, a simulated Martian habitat, where they experienced what life on Mars may be like - gleaning insights on designing for small spaces back on Earth.
The collection, which IKEA released the first images of this week, centres around four elemental themes—time, space, water, and air. It takes cues from life in space, with many of the items taking on a survivalist bent, practically packaged for highly stylised, high-tech efficiency.
In addition to sending a team to NASA’s Mars simulation, IKEA’s researchers also spent time in Tokyo visiting their famously dense capsule hotels, where every inch of space is at a premium.
IKEA are taking R&D to the next level by really getting under the skin of future conditions; exploring what will matter to their consumers in 10, 20, 50 years time. Whether that be our increasingly compact living conditions or entering an era of interplanetary living, who knows.
SEEN is compiled by LOVE’s Head of Culture, Kat Towers. Want to say hello, ask questions or challenge her cultural knowledge then get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org