What the hell are you up to, Ikea? The Swedish company announced a surprisingly long list of partnerships with some of the most iconic brands and designers in the world today at its 2018 Democratic Design Days event yesterday in Älmhult, Sweden. Its new collections show that the company is looking far beyond its assemble-it-yourself furniture and meatball business. It wants to become the source for affordable, well-designed everything.
The names range from established corporations like Adidas and Lego to newer companies like Sonos. Then there’s a series of collaborations with a unusual mix of artists and designers from all sorts of disciplines–there’s Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, fashion designer like Virgil Abloh (and his fantastic Ikea receipt rug), the Solange-backed cultural hub Saint Heron, and perfume (!!!) creator Ben Gorham, and glass and ceramics artist Per B Sundberg, among others.
While the end result of many of these projects remains to be seen, Ikea gives us a few hints: It will work with Eliasson’s Little Sun spin-off to create solar products for communities without electricity access. And with Saint Heron, the company told Lonny it will explore “the creative space in between architecture, design, art, and music and how that could come alive in the homes of the many people.” There are also some perplexing alliances, including one with Area Academy–an esports company dedicated to education in that field, and Unyq, which uses 3D printing to create custom prosthetics.
Ikea has been refining and expanding its business model for a while now. The company introduced pet furniture and bought the startup Task Rabbit with the intention of enabling their customers to hire someone to build their Ikea furniture. It has also created augmented reality apps to simplify the customer decision making, shopping, and assembly experience. Expanding its business to include more home and lifestyle products–like Sonos audio systems or limited-edition handcrafted products seems like a logical step toward Ikea becoming your sole supplier of well-designed stuff. Even the perplexing collaboration with the 3D-printing company Unyq may be linked to an effort to personalize your cookie-cutter Swedish furniture.
In short, Ikea’s announcement shows how the company is looking beyond its conventional business. While we’ll have to wait for some of these collaborations to be unveiled, here’s a look at the complete list of unpronounceable collections announced thus far.
Föremål: According to Ikea, this collection, made with Per B Sundberg, is the polar opposite of its minimalist approach. Calling it a “maximalist” collection, it includes skull-shaped vases and dog candle holders, which the company claims are very Swedish. Just ask Bergman.
Överallt: This is a collaboration between 10 designers from seven African countries and Ikea to make furniture inspired by “modern urban rituals,” available for a limited time in the U.S. starting next spring.
Art rugs: Not happy with Abloh’s superb Ikea receipt rug? The Swedish company asked seven other artists to design rugs that will be available in the U.S. in 2019 in a handmade, limited-edition collection. Yes, Ikea is now selling actual art.
Annanstans: More limited-edition handcrafted objects that, Ikea claims, are “designed to make jobs.” Created in collaboration with Swedish textile designer Martin Bergström and artisans in rural India, Romania, and Thailand, the collection will come to the U.S. in 2019 for a limited time.
Frekvens: These Bluetooth sound and light products are a collaboration with Japanese audio brand Teenage Engineering and received a Red Dot Award for product design. Apparently, these products are meant “to make it even easier to throw an impromptu party.” Like other products in this list, these will only be available for a limited time starting in spring 2019.
Fönyad: Stationery, notebooks, desk lighting, stools, pedal bins, and rugs created for students by Colette founder Sarah Andelman and illustrator Craig Redman, which will arrive in the U.S. in the summer of 2019.
Markerad: The collaboration with fashion designer and Off-White Founder Virgil Abloh has resulted in several remarkable furniture pieces–including that Ikea receipt rug that I must own. It will come to the U.S. in the fall of 2019.
Symfonisk: A networked speaker that is the beginning of a partnership between Sonos and Ikea, Symfonisk is capable of connecting to your phone, computer, or tablet to play streamed audio wirelessly. Ikea says that this is just the first product on a list of incoming audio equipment coming to the U.S. in 2019.
Osynlig: Thanks to perfume designer Ben Gorham, not only will your house have Ikea stuff, it will also smell like Ikea. Knowing that the sense of smell is perhaps the most powerful memory enhancer, let’s hope these products don’t actually revive all your shopping anxiety at home.
Rumtid: Here’s where things take off to a new level of crazy. Last year, as Co.Design reported at the time, Ikea took a team of five people to live in a Mars simulation habitat in the Utah desert for three days–to study life in small spaces. Ikea says that the resulting Rumtid collection “will be divided into four different launches [their pun] based on the concepts of Time, Small space, Water, and Air respectively.” The collection includes little home accessories, like a tiny plant incubator, as well as air purifiers. It’s coming in 2020, just in time to accompany Elon Musk’s first shot at Mars.
There you have it. Is there anything left in our homes that Ikea hasn’t touched yet? From fashion to toys to art to pet supplies to AR apps to esports gear to audio equipment. We’re just missing TVs and smartphones. If it has a role in your personal life, it seems, Ikea wants to sell it to you.