IKEA Democratic Design Days 2018

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I have recently returned from an exciting trip to Älmhult, Sweden, where I attended IKEA’s annual Democratic Design Days event for 2018. This was the reason behind my coinciding trip to Copenhagen (blog posts coming soon), as it was where I had flown into, and later caught the train from. During the two-hour train trip, I watched the city of Copenhagen fade, and as we crossed borders, the Swedish countryside emerged.

Spanning over two days, the event provided an opportunity for invited journalists and influencers from around the world, to get a scoop on the latest product designs and developments for the company, as well as be the first to hear about their forthcoming creative collaborations.

Taking place in Älmhult, the birthplace of the very first IKEA store (which has since been transformed into the IKEA Museum), being able to see the origin of such a beloved brand was a real treat. This is where IKEA has also built their headquarters, photography studios, and testing facilities.

Another addition to this happening hub is the IKEA Hotel, which is where all media representatives such as myself stayed. As you would imagine, the hotel was decked out in all of the best that IKEA design has to offer. The rooms were contemporary and comfortable, and there were many little corners styled with modern Swedish-style furniture; some designed to socialise in, whilst others are used to escape to for a moment to yourself. There was also a large shared courtyard with a collection of vegetable gardens, sporting signages encouraging guests to ‘pick your own’ fresj produce.

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During Day 1, we were invited to a presentation where the Head of Design, Marcus Engman, introduced himself to the curious crowd. Engman presented short video snapshots of IKEA’s upcoming collaborations, before introducing the designers responsible for them on stage, one by one.

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After the presentation, there was a chance to meet and interview the designers, as well as get up close and personal with the products they have created. Some standouts for me include ‘TÄNKVÄRD’, a collection based on the use of natural fibers such as rattan, cotton, linen, jute, and seagrass; I really resonated with this collection as the style is right up my alley, so I look forward to its launch in 2019 and will no doubt introduce some of the pieces to my own home. Then there was the ‘Art Collection 2019’, IKEA’s upcoming 'off-the-wall art pieces' in the form of a rug collection, featuring vibrant colours and rich patterns, inspired and designed by various renowned artists.

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Other exciting announcements that were made during Day 1 of the event was IKEA’s upcoming partnerships with some big names for 2019, including adidas and LEGO Group. The collaboration with adidas will focus on how to better people’s habits at home for a more active lifestyle, while the collaboration with LEGO Group, will shine a light on the importance of “play” in a child’s life and growth.

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To top of this day, we were also treated with all the latest of IKEA’s culinary offerings, including a new member of their popular meatball range, salmon balls, and planet-friendly choices, like the veggie hot dog and plant-based ice-cream — all launching globally by 2019.

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By the time Day 2 rolled around, IKEA had made one thing clear — they are taking sustainable living very seriously. With this, several announcements were made regarding the company’s commitments to become people and planet-positive by 2030. Some of their proclaimed pledges included removing all single-use plastic products globally and from customer and coworker restaurants in stores by 2020 and expanding the offer of affordable home solar solutions to 29 IKEA markets by 2025.

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Last but certainly not least was a visit to the IKEA Museum, where an exhibition titled ‘IKEA Hacked’ was being held. The phenomena of hacking, altering and remaking of IKEA items has become a global trend, but what happens when you challenge 30 artists and designers from around the world to get creative with their own IKEA hacks? Well, a lot of fun and interesting works of art, that’s what. Like the ‘pencil chair’ made out of 6,971 short pencils from the IKEA store, and a sculpture made of 63 TEODORES chairs stacked on one another.

Once I had ticked off all the final pitstops that I wanted to see, it was time to check-out of the hotel and make my way back to Denmark for a second serving of Copenhagen. And as I looked outside my train window, I gave Älmhult a little nod; the town that put IKEA on the map, and said a friendly goodbye, or rather, adjö!

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