Making great design available to everyone

Flisat is made from wood, a sustainable and renewable material. (Text & pix courtesy: IKEA)


What is Democratic Design? It is a tool IKEA uses when it develops and evaluates the products put into the Swedish manufacturer’s range. It has five dimensions: function, form, quality, sustainability and low price. When there is a balance between all five, we consider that the design is democratic.

The form is for beauty, it is what attracts the eye, and the object has to be functional, otherwise it won’t be used. When objects and materials last over a long period of time, that’s what we call quality.

Being mindful of resources is something that has been with IKEA since the start. We don’t like complicated solutions and wastefulness – it is bad for everyone!

Part of sustainability is about using exactly the right materials for the function, and using them sparingly, but sustainably. It also means taking responsibility all the way through a product’s life. It starts with how we source materials, to the people who produce the product, all the way through to our clients.

It is basically our culture and values boiled down to five dimensions, together with simply using common sense in everything we do.

Price points

But is it possible to create a really low price for a product that lives up to all the other demands? This is our aim, and when we don’t succeed, we don’t live up to the IKEA vision.

If the price is too high, we need to work with the other dimensions to lower the price, by looking at the materials, changing the design, or going through the production process again.

You may well ask: Do all IKEA products live up to the five dimensions of Democratic Design? The five dimensions are always represented in the products, but the balance between them is not always equal.

We constantly review our range and take out or improve the products that don’t live up to our customers’ expectations.

I’ll give you one example of a product we designed that really captures the dimensions of Democratic Design: the Flisat desk for kids. The price is fair, it can be height-adjusted so it grows with the child, and it has smart functions such as a tilted table-top and paper holder.

Ensuring balance

We hope these functions encourage children to be creative. It is very high quality and has a classic form so that it can be loved and passed on to future generations. The material is sustainable and renewable – wood.  It’s quite simply Democratic Design!

So far as the five dimensions go, they are all equally important – it’s a question of balance. We usually notice if something is missing during the design and development phase itself. Then we act on that and make it right.

Democratic Design flows through our veins. It is basically our culture and values boiled down to five dimensions, together with simply using common sense in everything we do.

IKEA has more or less always worked like this, only it has become an actual working tool more recently. To me, that’s both fair and clever. Without Democratic Design, we would not live up to our vision to create a better everyday life for many people.




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