Ikea and Design Week team up to discuss “designing for modern urban living conditions”

As Ikea launches its new PS collection this month it is partnering with Design Week for a special event, which will look to understand what it means to design for young urbanites with busy lives and changing needs.

On 18 May, a panel including Ikea head of design Markus Engman and Ikea creative leader James Futcher will be joined by other industry experts and Design Week editorial.

The panel will look at what it means to design products and furniture where living space might be limited and where one space might need to serve several needs.

Today people move house more often than ever before – particularly those who rent, and we have increasingly busy lives. This Government report (page 19), shows that 17.4% of all private renters have moved from one private rental space to another between 2015-2016.

In our panel session we will talk about how to address these needs and find ways to design products that suit the lifestyles of young people in different kinds of cities.

When Ikea began its PS project it was started with these kinds of questions in mind. Futcher, who led the PS project says the starting point for the range was the Life at Home report, which is published by Ikea every two years.

These “microtrends” were the starting point but Ikea also wanted to understand how people live within their homes and what problems they come up against.

“We know that people are living in fluid undefined spaces in cities and that they have a desire to make their things more personable,” says Futcher.

Further insight was gained from Ikea’s home visits, which the company carries out globally, observing home life and interviewing people about how their home functions.

“One idea came from a trip to Asia. We saw so many coffee tables that fold away – popping up in the day time but disappearing in the evening. It was a great idea but the ones we saw were always unsturdy, so we took this concept and improved upon it,” says Futcher. This design became the Ikea PS 2017 Coffee Table.

The designers who have worked on the range are a mix of in-house and external designers. At the beginning of the project they were taken to the Ikea factories and introduced to engineers and technicians.

“We’re at our best when we’re on our factory floor understanding production techniques,” says Futcher, who brought together designers to brainstorm and workshop while at the factories.

“Before any designing takes place we wanted them to understand how materials work and how they can be developed,” according to Futcher.

As designers took themselves away ideas were developed from sketches, through to models and prototypes, before full-sized mock-ups were made and variables such as quality, price and sustainability were considered. “Some of the ideas fell by the wayside of course,” says Futcher.

One of the main aims of the PS project was to tap into the consumers desire to personalise products.

“It was one of the key parts of the brief” says Futcher, who adds: “Young people in cities don’t want to be the same as everyone else.”

One of the PS products, Corner Easy Chair, is a sofa frame, which comes with 18 cushions that can be tied on, or it can be customised if the consumer ties their own on.

“It leaves the product open to interpretation” says Futcher, who says the simple galavnised metal cabinet has a similar purpose – “It comes alive depending on what you put in it.”

Some of the designers on the PS project have directly addressed the idea that young people in cities live busy lives. The most pertinent example is the Three-piece Self-watering Plant Pot set.

“So many people live very hectic lives and they’re on the go all the time. There are certain plants that you can have in you home, which purify the air but they have to be watered in the correct way and some people might not have time for this,” says Futcher.

Water is placed in a ceramic vessel and then it seeps through into an unglazed terracotta vessel to get the right amount of water.

There are 65 products in the range. Some of the designers have interpreted the brief with strength and practicality in mind.

A simple mug – Mug With Lid – has been inspired by takeaway coffee cups. It’s made out of strengthened glass and has a ring for holding.

The PS collection sets a precedent for the direction that Ikea is taking. “We’re always interested in the younger generation and their home furnishing priorities and one thing we’re really good at is solving people’s problems in a small living space.”

Moving beyond this though, Ikea is now concerned with “personalisation, identity and adapting” says Futcher.

The PS collection comes at a time when Ikea is also thinking about stepping up its sustainability efforts.

While sustainability has always been one of the main pillars the company was built on, recently Ikea has been looking at its manufacturing process to see where further improvements can be made.

One of the pieces in the PS collection is the result of this. Futcher says that the Vase product has been made by harvesting offcuts from other Ikea glass products. Made from various shades of leftover material, each one is a unique mouth-blown item. “This is the perfect example of collaboration between designer and supplier,” says Futcher.

The event will be on 18 May at PI Artworks, 55 Eastcastle Street, Fitzrovia, London W1W 8EG . There are a limited number of spaces available for any Design Week readers who would like to attend. If you’re interested, email: edward.aldridge@centaurmedia.com

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