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Guest JLdesign

Are Target and IKEA Helping Or Hurting Design?

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Guest JLdesign

Hi Everyone, I was just wondering what you think of the efforts of Target and IKEA to spread "affordable design" to the general public. Do you feel that is a step in the right direction, or that it simply "cheapens" better design and creates a further rift between what people precieve as value from design?

 

Personally I've been happy to see both companies making an impact in the market. I think every designer feels a certain degree of frustration walking around Walmart looking at products which completely fail on an aesthetic and/or semantic level. The sad thing is the majority of the public would rather purchase such products because they are "cheap". In a sense I think it's almost reflective of our culture which to me is very materialistic and disposable. How many times have you been a visitor in someone's home and walked past the brand new explorer and new siding just to see shag green carpet and mustard yellow appliances inside?

 

I would rather surround myself with things that I add to my comfort and happiness, rather then being worried about what the neighbors think of my house from the sidewalk. Gradually, and as I can afford it, I want to start collecting pieces of furniture which I truely appreciate. Although, that will mean that someday I'll have "you better @#$@#$ well NEVER SET FOOT IN HERE room" full of that stuff!

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or that it simply "cheapens" better design and creates a further rift between what people precieve as value from design?

Well that's where you hit the sore spot of many the 'elite' designers that complain about Ikea. I'm always laughing at design stores selling rediculously overpriced designer goods, because I know how much cheaper they can be sold. Of course the size of the series being produced have an influence on price as well, but most of these prices can't be justified from a value for money point of view (of course, if you conceive status you get from owning such objects as value, it's an other point perhaps).

I'm guilty of it myself as well though.. Some of these objects are very desirable, but if they were sold for an Ikea price, I would already have bought them.

Ikea is great, it offers relatively cheap products that look good and can be really clever. Now if only there were places like Ikea where you could buy electronics, cars etc at the same competetive prices B)

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Guest gilty

Just to nitpick the question a little, I don't think IKEA and Target are out to "spread "affordable design" to the general public." I think (and am glad) they are using design as a marketing tool to make money; there is no design altruism at play. Thankfully they have been somewhat successful at raising the design awareness of the 'WalMart' consumer. However, because of the lower cost, I don't know that these consumers are actually caring about the design as much as the 'value' of the product.

 

I'm curious what the overlap of WalMart and IKEA shoppers is? How many WalMart shoppers are aware of and/or would shop at IKEA? How many IKEA shoppers shop at WalMart?

 

I live in a small town where WalMart is a large presence, much to my disgust and dismay. I HATE shopping there for SO MANY reasons....but I think a large part of my animosity is because they carry some of everything, and that if I'm shopping for a paintbrush and roller, I have to fight the grocery, clothing, auto and electronics shoppers for 1 of the 3 checkers just to get out of the store. Spend more time in line than shopping; for this reason alone I'd pay more just to get out faster.

 

I much more enjoy my experience of shopping online or in the IKEA catalog and happily paying the shipping cost (no local store) to get wall sconces, coffee tables, lamps and plant stands. Prior to moving to the boonies, shopping in their brick and mortar was also a treat.

 

While I agree with Renszu re: an electronics, food, clothing versions of IKEA, I don't want them all under the same roof.

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Guest molested_cow

I like Ikea furniture's cleverness, but I really wish they could have used better material and solid constructions. Yeah it will cost more, but I don't want the user to blame the design when that thing fails.

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Guest 0-maze-inc

I think when it comes to buying any item, a variety of factors come into play, for some the first consideration is price, for others it is it's hipness, but I believe for all it is the act of purchasing an item to show thier success, and improve their self worth. The act of purchasing anything non-essential is much more an act of vanity than improvement, the determination of what is essential is really determined by societal norms (keeping up with the jone's) and not by a real need, at least in this country-these days. Most people prefer quantity over quality, the bigger is better shopper mentality that has become the american dream, turned global nightmare. Unfortunately in a consumerist society, with so many incentives to purchase, consume, and ultimately throw away, there is little hope of wal mart, or ikea going the way of the edsel. I think that the most we can hope for is a job working to produce the latest, most fashionable designs, get our money, and throw it back into more unnecessary crap so there will be more demand, and ultimately more money for us. If you suggest that we should learn to conserve, purchase wisely (and without credit) then you suggest that we shake the very foundation on which design jobs exist. The very best solution for our problem is to find a material which is infinately recyclable, durable, and non polluting, then when things wear out (as they should) we could reclaim the materials, and return them freshly designed and re-manufactured.

 

Oh yea, and while we're at it a limitless supply of energy to keep the wheels turning would help as well.

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Guest kari

IKEA strike me as a more noble and sustainable side of consumerism- they work at educating their customers rather than keeping them dumb. Through IKEA mr n mrs outer suburbs/drive holden/watch AFL now realise that somebody actually thought about how they might use their furniture , and their sofabed wasnt just magically conceived by pixies.

This awareness can only help designers (who are here to help consumers-chicken/egg).

I see some designers becoming a little precious and being concerned about losing distance between joe average and themselves, this increased public eye should simply be a challenge to take on and motivate you to work more creatively and effectively.

This mornings paper had a degree of questioning about the relevance of 'design' as if it were a

luxury that wasn't required by the general public. I take this as a sign that there is much more educating to be done. Mass market design drives our industry from the grass roots, the haute couture/high end side of things is more like the icing on the cake.

the comments about IKEA being there to make money: well of course, we are animals, furniture is a luxury, appliances are a luxury, consumerism drives our 'progress'.

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Kari, totally agree with that, I think Ikea (don't know Target, we don't have that here) is indeed 'educating' the people who still think of 'design' as some sacred artform. This is also an area where I think a lot of electronics manufacturers have something to learn. Some of them already use sustainable engineering but simply don't promote that green image enough I think. When was the last time you saw a Sony product being promoted for its energy consumption for example?

 

And of course, we don't want Ikea to become some form of Walmart (don't have that here either, but I can see what you mean, our Blokker is probably even worse) where you can buy everything. To be honest I now think that was a pretty silly thing of me to say because electronics and automotive industries have already been pushed towards competitive pricing because of the competition.

 

I agree that these affordable forms of design are perhaps not always as solidly built, but I think that when you have products that are 'green' in the sense that they were made with 'clean' technologies and that where they were designed with disassembly or perhaps even recycling in mind, then I think this can only be applauded. (not the kind of recycling where it costs more energy to recycle than to destroy the product).

 

I'm sorry for the incoherency of my story here, but it's early and I haven't had my tea yet B)

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Guest Marlamuth

I don’t really have the same idea about IKEA as you guys. Being from Sweden I’ve grown up with them, been there with my parents each and every Sunday morning buying sofas or duvets and until a couple of years ago I went there myself to get a new rug, coat hangers or some cups. I also have a couple of friends that have worked for IKEA both in-house and in external groups. All this, seeing what they do to people and hearing the stories, made me promise myself I would try to avoid shopping there.

 

Well, they’re not all negative. The things JLdesign said about making affordable products is really great and I don’t see myself as a better person than the people buying their homes at IKEA. I just don’t want to do that, here is why:

 

a) IKEA have a couple of in-house designers which are doing great and are paid a normal monthly salary. But they also use loads of designers on the outside and they hardly pay them. They might get $5000-10000 for a product, which IKEA then maybe sell millions of. Designers like Thomas Sandell, who made some of the IKEA/PS collection, and is one of Sweden’s most famous designers did probably get paid. But I have two friends who made a 50’s inspired camping table and they didn’t get a cent.

 

B) They copy other designers’ products. This has happened with furniture, but most frequently with fabrics. They know they will make more money of it than the fine. They are not the only company doing this, but never the less…

 

c) They pressure their sub-contractors to lower their costs to the point when the sub-contractors have to shut down. IKEA forces them to lower their price every year or the contract will go to someone else. If IKEA find someone who will make the same product cheaper even the slightest, they will go to that company instead, regardless of what happens to the other one. This also have an impact on quality. With cheaper materials, you can lower your price.

 

d) Last, but not least; the things sold at IKEA have no soul. Making millions of copies that show up in every home reduces the feel of things. If people had bought their furniture from different stores, mixing by their on personality it would have been ok. But now loads of homes, here in Sweden at least, looks as they are right out of a page in the IKEA catalogue. If this isn’t mainstreaming, then what is. It’s almost heading in a direction of total conformity.

 

Right now I’m re-building a sofa, one of the last remains of IKEA in my apartment. It is really not that hard to give it some soul. New feet, arms and fabric and you’re all set.

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Hm, sounds like Aldi..

 

I admit I did not know about this, but to be honest, I think it is like that in most industries that offer affordable goods.

And I agree with you on the fact that an interior bought entirely from ANY designer or company is entirely lifeless. I saw a documentary on dutch tv few days ago, it had an interview with the Bouroullec brothers (famous French (interior) designers). They mentioned exactly the same, and they thought it was best to have a mixed interior. For example a family piece together with something new.. it makes interior more alive and gives the needed individuality.

That's indeed the Ikea effect, because of the relatively cheap prices people are tempted to shop only at Ikea for their entire interior.. many student appartments I've seen are just like that (well ok, I admit many more were just a big mess hehe).

 

edit: found the site of this tv program, you can watch all the interviews (english/dutch subbed) here:

http://www.vpro.nl/programma/ram/afleveringen/17939595/

I found them very interesting, Mike Mills I found a particularly cool dude.

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Guest JLdesign

Marlamuth,

 

Thanks for posting that information. I guess I am not in the least bit shocked to hear that. Anytime something is afforable these days then somebody stands to lose while a large corporation gains in profit by phasing out others. In my mind though, IKEA is a slight step above somebody buying traditional wood (vener!) furniture in a typical American Furniture Outlet, or worse yet, Walmart. As much as we would like people to be conscious of their surroundings and have a good aesthetic sense, it doesn't happen much in the general public.

 

Personally though I do agree with what you say about mixing furniture. I'm still living in an absolute @#$@#$ hole of an apartment filled with hand-me-down furniture from my parents, but when I do have a job and the income, I plan to gradually purchase furniture that will reflect upon my taste and various inspirations. I can easily picture some Kartell Stark plastic chairs surrounding an inexpensive simple glass or white top and chrome based cafe table, a slowly expanding collection of ebay refugee Eames fiberglass chairs, a broad collection of "design knick-knacks", and a gradual shifting towards purchasing sofas, shelving systems, etc. from a wide variety of other design sources.

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Thanks for the info Marlamuth, you are totally right about the soul and personality thing. But as a student i could not afford expensive design objects, so i have to live with IKEA objects, which are quite okay.

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Guest manglii

hmm, lets hear some views from a asian, shall we? :ph34r:

first of all, ikea in malaysia isnt totally affordable to most of the ppl here, its somewhere at the middle-high range... as a designer who do costing as well, i know particularly that most ikea products doesnt worth tat kinda money, even of the transportation, n its ENORMOUS store's rental n renovation tat they hav to pay... (thanks Marlamuth for his information shared) however, we couldnt despite the fact that they hav really intense r&d n as well as the promotions to bring designs back home... im not agreeing tat they can continuously exploit suppliers n designers... but at least now, ppl will at least be more gladful to wat designers r doin, u see... n personal opinion, design shud be everywhere, regardless of its price... wat designers shud do is to ease ppls life n make the world a healthier, prettier place to lilve in...

guess, we hav to root back to the definitions of design... (stoOP manglii! ur getting too far, hahah)

so back to the root question, they r helping design (in some ways)

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Guest ctsa

While in design school in Melbourne, I had made up my mind that IKEA was hurting design.

 

A year back I was talking to a Swedish friend and sarcastically said that "IKEA is just the Swedish version of K-Mart". She was offended even though I was joking... being high patriotic.

I was a few months later involved in some IKEA forestry projects in China- IKEA being the private partner in some forest conservation projects. Their involvement was inspiring. I also met the Asia Social issues manager who works with their Chinese factories to achieve good working standards, education in international standards and so forth.

 

Not sure if Target does the same... I don't think Target here does. But there is increasing pressure for these big corporations to be responsible... I think intelligent design looks at these issues as well.

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Guest newkillerstar

Affordable design for all is not a new concept. This is why you still stumble upon various Eames chairs in odd places. Afforable design was a big part of their philosophy.

 

As for Target and IKEA - they are helping design in these ways:

> Advertising - these target commercials have nothing to do with low-low prices, or great function. Its all about design and its really great to see someone pushing that good design has real value.

> Awareness - Target has brought names like Micheal Graves and Phillippe Stark into the mainstream and continues to champion its designers.

> Variety - IKEA brings a distictly European alternative to America. Target has made some very cool versions of very mundane products and there really is no competition right now.

 

I do agree that IKEAs materials and construction is notoriously chincy (is there such a thing as a crap-wood tree?). This is where the product giant falls down - customer experience. Poor craftsmanship, commonly damaged parts, and morons working in customer service give IKEA a bad name - and if IKEA carries the banner for design, then it gives design a bad name. Target, beware - don't head down this path

 

As for squeezing its suppliers and manufacturers - IKEA did not invent that game. The fact is if you make your name on low prices, then someone is getting hurt. Automotive plants don't pay their suppliers for 6-9 months. Computer companies routinely beat suppiers into submission. Dell doesn't pay for its parts til they are physically installed in the machine.

 

Did anyone else see those elite designers against ikea ads? made by IKEA BTW

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