Designer Virgil Abloh has turned ironic quotation marks into a signature design move at his brand Off-White. You can also see them in his redesigned Nike icons, which feature “Foam” and “Air” printed right on the outer sole, or in his design for Hailey Bieber’s wedding dress, which featured “Till Death Do Us Part” on its lace train.
Now, as part of his collaboration with Ikea, Abloh is going a step further. For the launch of his latest collection with the Swedish furniture giant, he’s rebranded the iconic Ikea logo itself, placing yellow quotation marks around the block sign on at least one U.K. Ikea store.
Ikea is now “Ikea”—the world’s largest furniture company, for a moment, belongs to him. Of course, you’ll also find quotes in his Ikea collection itself, which features a “Wet-Grass” rug and a tote bag that reads “Sculpture.”
To celebrate our new collab with one of fashion’s hottest designers we’ve given our Wembley store a little “makeover”. Collection on sale 01.11.19. Ticket holders only. More info at https://t.co/zrV7LGENd5 pic.twitter.com/PfqDRwD8MT
— IKEA UK (@IKEAUK) November 1, 2019
Abloh’s use of quotes is a well-established motif at this point, but they continue to fulfill many of his goals as an artist. Quotation marks allow him a means to alter a design as minimally as possible but still make it his own—a knowing exercise that critiques product design, branding, and identity. They’re a wink at the groundbreaking Dada artists of the early 20th century, too, and specifically Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades, which saw Duchamp elevate mundane objects—like, infamously, a urinal—by giving them all the trappings of fine art shown in galleries.
In any case, I’ve always read Abloh’s quotation marks as air quotes—an ironic snicker in the face of high art and capitalism alike.