Celebrating Democratic Design

Six product development teams were rewarded for creating the best examples of products with great form, function, quality, sustainability and low price.

Democratic design

Creating IKEA design is not the work of a single designer. It’s based on teamwork. Where engineers, product developers, material specialist, packaging designers, communicators, sales competences, product designers and suppliers work closely together from start to finish. All with the aim to create home furnishing products that fulfil the IKEA idea of Democratic Design.

So what is Democratic Design, really? Well, the basic idea behind it is to make well-designed home furnishings for everyone. To succeed with that, all products are developed from five dimensions.

It’s about giving each product a beautiful form and functions that enable an easier everyday life. It’s about creating quality that lasts and makes products age gracefully. It’s about having sustainable solutions throughout the value chain, as well as enabling a sustainable life at home. And most importantly, it’s about doing all of this for as low price as possible. So that as many people as possible will be able to afford it.

Necessity is the mother of invention

It is not an easy task to create Democratic Design. If it were, all home furnishing companies would do it. To be able to succeed, you have to combine different skills and knowledge. Teamwork is a necessity.

Not all IKEA products fulfil all five dimensions of Democratic Design. But we hope they will one day. Some do already and those deserve some extra attention. That is also the reason IKEA of Sweden AB decided to acknowledge the best examples of new design each year through a Democratic Design Award. On 29 August, the winners were announced at IKEA of Sweden in Älmhult, Sweden.

“All members of the product development teams, including the supplier, are important contributors in enabling Democratic Design. And by rewarding the complete team, and the supplier, we show that designing IKEA products means working together”, says Marcus Engman, Design Manager at IKEA of Sweden.

Everyone together for the live broadcasted event

To celebrate something accomplished through great teamwork also means bringing everyone together for the big event. During a few morning hours all IKEA of Sweden co-workers gathered to salute the teams behind the winning products. To make it possible for all suppliers situated in all corners of the world to attend, the whole event was broadcasted live from Älmhult.

Six categories, six winners
The Democratic Design award exists in six categories that show how IKEA of Sweden works with product development – from sourcing to enabling a better life at home for the many people. An internal jury defined the categories and each Business Area at IKEA of Sweden nominated the candidates. Here are the winners of the 2014 Democratic Design Award:

LED bulbsBest Övertag
LEDARE led globe 400lm 2-p
Övertag is about making everything right by optimising every part of the value chain, including investments in material and technique, with the result of offering substantially lower prices than competitors. LEDARE led globe is a great example. A new factory running on a hyper modern production way was set up – minimum manual work, maximum automation and a high consistent quality all through using modern technology. This is how we make LED lighting available to the many people.

Best Innovation in material and technique –
The wedge dowel
Democratic Design is accomplished by having innovative solutions when it comes to working with construction, production and optimising material. This adaptation of an old and traditional assembly technique aims for a more enjoyable assembling experience for IKEA customers – much quicker and easier.


Entrance with TJUSIG coathanger and shoerackBest Product ImprovementTJUSIG shoe rack and hat rack
Improvements can be made by constantly looking into how existing products can be even better by working with all five dimensions of Democratic Design. The sales price for TJUSIG is now substantially lower thanks to thinner tubes and less fittings. Furthermore, the quality is improved as the construction is more stable. TJUSIG is also more sustainable, as less metal is used and the wood will be FSC certified in 2016.

Best Innovation in life at home –
BOSJÖN kitchen tap
Because true innovation and good design are about understanding the needs and hassles of the user in everyday life at home. And in combination with material and technique development, to come up with functions people didn’t even think of. BOSJÖN offers innovation that lets you control the water flow in a better way. The placement of the lever – close to you, in front of the spout’s outlet helps avoiding scolding and getting wet. At the same time, it is easier to access for children. The tap can be knocked open with the back of the hand, which usually is cleaner than your palm.

Bathroom with LEJEN mirror and cabinetsBest New BTI
LEJEN bathroom cabinets and mirror
Breath taking items (BTI) shows that it is possible to create great form, function, quality that still is sustainable at a price so low it will take your breath away. LEJEN is a typical innovative IKEA design with bright colours and built-in smart functions. It’s modular and therefor very adaptable to different needs: the cabinets are stackable and can be placed on the floor, under the sink or hanging on the walls. LEJEN is ideal for small space living and usable across the home.

Best Democratic Design News –
The new IKEA 365+ series (launching in April 2015)
New products that show fantastic design with a strong IKEA character, with better functionality that is relevant in life at home in different markets with smart features, higher quality with better durability and more sustainable materials. Products that provide customers with even more true everyday value for money. IKEA 365+ is already well known by many IKEA customers. Replacing IKEA 365+ was no easy task. But the new and improved series offers a fantastic design with a strong IKEA character and lots of improvements providing customers with even more true everyday value for money.

The cheering wouldn’t stop

When the winners were announced and invited up on stage, the atmosphere at IKEA of Sweden was electric. Everyone was given standing ovations and the crowd was cheering loud and long.

“When bringing up the entire team on the stage, everyone that had been part of the development process got a nice pat on the shoulder for a job well done. Some co-workers and suppliers are probably not used to get standing ovations. For instance many award winners included colleagues from our product development workshop department – people who truly work hands-on with design and construction,” says Marcus.

Every winning team got SEK 10,000 as a prize. The idea is that the money will be spent on a party for the entire team together with the supplier, to continue to celebrate the good work they have accomplished together.

Best according to ourselves, but what do IKEA customers think?

The jury at IKEA of Sweden has selected the winning products. So in one way this is a prize that IKEA of Sweden gives itself and the contracted suppliers. What the customers and people outside the IKEA sphere think has not yet been a component of the awards. But Marcus is open to the idea of bringing the views of the customer into the evaluation as well.

“The coming year we will open up for customer reviews and ratings on the IKEA website. Here we will receive immediate feedback on what people think about IKEA products. But, who knows, perhaps next year we will have changed how we select the winners of the Democratic Design Award. Just because we do it like this now, doesn’t mean we have to do it the exact same way next year. I think we should always evolve and do things better. That includes this as well.”