I was moved to learn about the passing away of IKEA’s founder Ingvar Kamprad yesterday, aged 91. He was born in 1926 in Småland in southern Sweden and raised on ‘Elmtaryd’, a farm near the small village of Agunnaryd, that’s how the company also got its name IK (Ingvar Kamprad) E (Elmtaryd) A (Agunnaryd). Ingvar displayed an entrepreneurial spirit at a tender age and founded IKEA in 1943 when he was only 17, initially selling pens, wallets, picture frames, table runners, watches, jewellery and nylon stockings at reduced prices and eventually moving to retailing furniture in 1948. I once wrote about the design of a table from their catalogue which supported wireless charging which I thought integrated seamlessly with the present generation’s ubiquitous goals.
Ingvar’s journey is exhilarating, to say the least. He started his company around a rural place where people worked hard and made the most of their meagre earnings & resources. This prompted him to live and experience a simple life and develop products that supported the needs of the common individuals while keeping the costs low and focussing on good quality with frugal innovation. He often used himself as an example and to be able to feel what his customers would desire and justify the design decisions, which to me, is the greatest illustration of design-thinking.
The IKEA Effect
No doubt that IKEA has had a significant impact on our subconsciousness, in terms of its simplistic self-assembly design structure & its positive fallout on our minds. To such an extent that researchers termed it ‘The IKEA effect’, a cognitive bias that was identified and named by Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School, Daniel Mochon of Yale, and Dan Ariely of Duke, who published the results of their studies in 2011 in ‘The “IKEA Effect”: When Labor Leads to Love’ [PDF] which says (and I couldn’t agree more):
Self-assembly affects the evaluation of a product by its consumers. The results of their studies suggested that when people construct a particular product themselves, even if they do a poor job of it, they value the end result more than if they had not put any effort into its creation.
Ingvar isn’t with us today but his values of making products simple, of corresponding with human needs and affecting change through a culture of design, would be endured by designers forever.