Design Curator: The Mother of Ikea

You might have heard of it. That dominating blue and yellow hulking building across the sky. Ikea. The Disney World of design and mass production.

I bet as you’ve walked through the showrooms, laid on the beds, sat on the sofas and chairs you never thought much about the story behind the interior designs. Ikea might even be cliche to you; overused and overdone. Yet, there is a design concept peeking through each piece, which stems from the mother of Ikea known as Scandinavian design.

Scandinavian design includes the countries of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway; it encompasses the idea of  “beautiful things that make your life better.” A design is truly Scandinavian when beauty and functionality are one.

Functionality is how practical an object is, how accessible, and how enjoyable for the general public.  The idea of designing products in such a way that they are accessible and affordable to the masses comes from Scandinavian local institutions, such as the Swedish Society of Industrial Design.

Fortunately beauty (the beauty of an object being a quality pleasing to the eye drawing us towards that object) was not sacrificed to the highly functional and accessible Scandinavian designs.

Smashing Magazine talks about the origination of the term Scandinavian design:

“The term “Scandinavian design” originates from a design show that traveled the US and Canada under that name from 1954 to 1957. Promoting the “Scandinavian way of living,” it exhibited various works by Nordic designers and established the meaning of the term that continues to today: beautiful, simple, clean designs, inspired by nature and the northern climate, accessible and available to all, with an emphasis on enjoying the domestic environment.”

Left: Poster from the Stockholm Exhibition, 1930. Right: Catalogue from the Helsingborg Exhibition, 1955.

Though  it seems everyone shops at Ikea (making it cliche), and most artists cringe at the words mass production, there is a design concept inherent in each display. We can learn from Ikea.

So far the design elements I’ve covered are simplicity, timelessness, and uniqueness. Now I have added functionality with beauty. With your designs think about how you can make it aesthetically pleasing, but also functional for your audience. You can try the “form follows function” approach and decide on your style aesthetic based on the practical need first or flip it; have a design aesthetic , but add elements of functionality to it.

Next time you walk through that blue and yellow superstore of design think about the design concept that mothered Ikea.

Elizabeth Wann~ Jewelry Designer and Writer

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