Showing a chair om stage

A day dedicated to Democratic Design

In mid-May, hundreds of journalists, bloggers and influencers in the worlds of interior design, home furnishing and sustainability gathered in Älmhult, Sweden for the second annual Democratic Design Day.

The event was created in 2014 as part of the ambition to make the company more open and transparent. Democratic Design Day is a way to share the behind-the-scenes action, knowledge and passion that never finds its way out into the real world, which subsequently builds trust in the IKEA Brand and creates desire for the IKEA range. And it’s not about presenting the coming collections in a polished and perfect way.

“What we really want to create is a feeling of stepping into the big collective IKEA brain – into our product and design universe – one that sometimes is chaotic but always fuelled with great curiosity and creativity,” says Marcus Engman, Design Manager at IKEA of Sweden AB. “We don’t want to sit around and work every single little detail, and wait until the product is perfect before we show it to the world. It’s much more interesting and much better for us to open the doors earlier in order to really co-create.”

An important part of Democratic Design Day is to create personal meetings. Participants get a chance to talk with IKEA of Sweden AB’s product developers, material experts, Life at Home innovators, designers, analysts and partners. It’s a chance to share all of their passion, insights and stories.

People talking and trying chairs

“Our ambition was to create an open, authentic and conversational day where we discuss life at home and how we can make it better,” Engman says. “I think we succeeded in that ambition.”

Apart from various journalists and bloggers, attendees included designer Ilse Crawford that designed the SINNERLIG collection (launched August 2015). Also present was London-based fashion designer Katie Eary, who has developed the vibrant and colourful GILTIG collection for the IKEA range that will be launched in March 2016.

“Democratic Design Day was fascinating because I got to see what’s going to be launched in 2017,” Eary says. “I didn’t realise how far in advance furniture is designed. In fashion, we do everything one year ahead. But for home furnishings, the lead times are crazy. I also felt there is so much you can do; I just want to move on to the next collection. There are still so many boundar­ies to break.”

Ingegerd Råman, one of Scandinavia’s most well-known glass designers and ceramists, also came to Älmhult. She designs objects that are meant to exist for a long time, and her work always displays her love of craftsmanship and attention to detail. Her limited-edition IKEA collection VIKTIGT, created with IKEA designers Nike Karlsson and Wiebke Braasch, is no exception. Participants got a glimpse of the collection that will be launched in May 2016.

What we really want to create is a feeling of stepping into the big collective IKEA brain

”We love the everyday and Ingegerd has a gift for transforming the ordinary into the exceptional, and for turning the simple into the spectacular,” Engman says.

This year’s theme, ”It starts with food”, also played a big a role in this year’s Democratic Design Day. It supports the business areas of Kitchen, Dining, Cooking & Eating and IKEA Food. Democratic Design Day showcased how the IKEA vision of a better everyday life for the many people can make a real difference in and around the kitchen.

Through Democratic Design, the IKEA offer can include cooking tools and appliances; help people create space with storage that keeps things tidy and food fresh, and hopefully inspire people to be more creative and experimental in the kitchen.

The innovation continued from there. Launching in October 2016, the IKEA PS 2017, HOME SMART collection combines our vast knowledge about life at home with new technology. Democratic Design Days also, for the first time, showed the progress with M-BOARD, a new lightweight material made solely out of paper, but with the same strength as classic board materials. It has environmental and economic benefits that are quite revolutionary. It’s made of up to 90% recycled paper – a raw material that can come from our own pallets and packing materials, for instance, and it’s 100% recyclable. So what starts out as potential waste now ends up as beautiful furniture that can then be recycled to make new furniture.

“I’m very happy with what we have achieved with Democratic Design Day 2015,” says Jesper Brodin, Managing Director at IKEA of Sweden. “I think there was huge improvement from the first year, and we got a lot of encouraging and positive feedback that makes us excited to plan something even better for next year. I feel we’re onto something really good.” Here’s to a future of even more openness and transparency, even greater trust in the IKEA Brand, and even more desire for the IKEA range.

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