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María Villanueva Fernández, Professor of the School of Architecture
Ingvar Kamprad: design as a strategy, and strategy as the inspiration of the Username
On January 28th, Feodor Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, one of the world's best-known furniture companies, passed away, with a history almost as long as that of its founder.
His innovation, curiosity, his early commercial spirit (at the age of 5) and his advanced and pioneering foray into the business world (at the age of 17), which led to the founding of IKEA in 1943, can be highlighted.
These biographical data are mixed with others that appear repeatedly in the articles that have seen the light in recent days. The most outstanding fact, from the field of design, is his conviction and achievement of its democratization: a simple design , based on the tradition of modern Scandinavian forms, and within the reach of almost everyone. This was possible thanks to his cost-saving policy, based on the 'self-assembly' of furniture and flat-pack packaging, the core topic concept of group.
There is no doubt of its enormous and successful entrepreneurial spirit that has made IKEA today a great commercial reality in 40 countries around the world. However, I would like to highlight what has been and is cardinal in its history: the commitment to design in a global way. For its founder, the design is not only a added value of the product, but also, and above all, a strategy for the economic improvement of the signature and that covers the design of the product, the packaging, the instructions for use, the catalog, and even the system of exhibition and marketing.
It is thus an example of how the design, has a value goal, tangible, that in addition to seeking beauty (undoubtedly important) offers to the business other values that obtain different levels of benefit. In this case, Kamprad opted for the global design as a tactic to make its product more attractive, but also to reduce costs and optimize commercial logistics, from design product to design graphics and services.
His objects, based on modern forms and values from the Scandinavian design of the 1950s, have functionality, simplicity and modular systems as essential premises. As result of this work are its well-known models: the bookshop Billy (1978, with 40 years of life, of which about 4.5 million units are manufactured each year), the POEM chair (1976, later called POÄNG) or the LACK table (1980).
In the field of graphicdesign highlights the creation of a universal document for assembly instructions that eliminates barriers, and has allowed to reach more places for less money. The construction process of its products is explained through the graphic language, the universal language of the creative, that is to say, the drawing.
In addition, we must not forget the sophisticated model of design services. The consumer experience at all levels, including gastronomy, which began as early as 1960 with the opening of the first restaurant in the Älmhult store, is seen as a complete activity, involving all the senses and going beyond the mere consumption of objects.
On the other hand, Ingvar Kamprad achieved the international large-scale production of furniture to assemble at home that made it possible for Username to furnish almost all the pieces needed to live in a house at an affordable price. This fact, beyond being a fact, has become an incentive and has awakened interest in design in society. It is not only a great business that produces furniture but it is also a vehicle through which the Username is involved in a staff way in the creation of your home. On many occasions, it is a game for the Username; it describes a playful spirit and provides the freedom in the ideation of furnishing, the experience of buying, assembling and placing furniture that was not previously possible with other forms of business in the sector. Interestingly, its design, in principle impersonal in nature because of its large-scale production, allows not only to be part of the whole process at Username, but also to leave its stamp and enjoy the home furnishing experience.
For all these reasons, in addition to being a great entrepreneur, a democratizer of design, a milestone in the history of design, Kamprad was a visionary who knew how to understand design at all levels as tool to grow his business and reach everyone. And he will also go down in history as the creator of a business model that has awakened interest in design and has made Username the protagonist of furnishing your own home.