Democratic Design Thinking

What I learned the most from Sweden was Perfection: the concept of perfection in designing and building products. In this article, I will share what I learned from IKEA and how we can bring these concepts to the software world while designing products that not only adding real value but also cost effective. Leading by design inspired me to develop a new concept of quantifying the cost/need ratio of any product we are building, and constructing the circle of feedback early on in the design process before prototyping.

I for Ingvar, K for Kamprad, E for Elmtaryd, A for Aggunaryd – IKEA

Leading by design by Bertil Torekull is one of the best read I had in 2022.

The philosophy started from a trip to Milan where Ingvar saw the difference between the exhibited luxury and the furnishings that ordinary people could afford in their homes. He asked himself:

  • Why do poor people have to put up with such ugly things?
  • Was it necessary that what was beautiful could be bought only by the elite for large sums?

He went back home with those questions ringing on his head. They were to go on demanding an answer from me all my life. Democracy as an instrument for evolution can lead to remarkable inertia.

  • Solving the question of How in the simplest and cheapest way to convey goods from the factory to the customers
  • Giving names to furniture instead of serial numbers
  • Mail order and furniture store at one
  • Only those who are asleep make no mistakes
  • An even greater joy is having business ideas and convincing others that they are possible to achieve
  • A kind of keenness not to miss a chance
  • Companies are People, Ideas, Cultures and History
  • Cost Awareness, The majority of people, the dream of a good capitalist, hard work raised to the highest morality.
  • Taking responsibility is a privilege: The fear of making mistakes is the root of bureaucracy and the enemy of development. 

Democratic Design

  • Swedish Design: Bright, Light and Functional
  • All designs learn from other designs
  • The innovation of self assembly, saving a great deal of money in the factories and in the transport
  • Gillis: What a lot of space it takes up, let’s take the legs off and put them under the tabletop. The one fine day, they had the first flat parcel and thus they started a revolution. Max was the name of the first assembled table.
  • Reality forced the innovation upon us. We had begun to experience a worrisomely high percentage of damaged furniture in transport (Breaking table legs, etc)
  • Then it was another revolution – the way of treating the surface of the wood

The concept

We are a concept company – Ingvar said:

The spirit primary stands for the concept.

  • Just inside the entrance, there should be the living room, and in the living room, they begin by deciding on the most important piece of furniture of all, the sofa 
  • After the sofa, they usually go for the carpet, the table, then they buy the chair, then a bookcase of shelving
  • After that, the kitchen, bedroom and so on

Product Names

Computer people wanted numbers; Ingvar fought for names which he usually thought up with the designer.

  • Suites, Sofas and Chairs were to have city names
  • Bookcases were to have boy’s names
  • Curtains girl’s names
  • Duvets bridge names
  • An armchair was called Stabil and its certainly was stable

Products like Aveny, Billy, Morot, Moppe and Sultan were hits.

The same names are used all over the world using the Swedish names.

The Business model

  • The hugging management – Hug each other, if you like each other you work well together. Hugging is both free and cost effective.
  • The ideological Think Tank of the empire. Each store, each concept purchaser and franchise pays 3% of Turnover to Inter Ikea systems BV
  • The sacred concept: Waste is a deadly sin, Simplicity is a virtue, Doing it a different way, concentration is important to our success, we can’t do everything, everywhere, all at the same time.
  • Selling hotdogs for 5 SK.
  • Down to earth democracy
  • To manage all of it, you have to know the details, that’s my philosophy
  • Tax is a cost, corporate tax is 28%
  • 1% in reduced sales produces 10% in reduced profit.
  • The Head-To-Foot company

IKEA has meant more for the process of democratization than many political measures put together. Part of creating a better everyday life for the many also consists of breaking free from status and convention – becoming freer as human being. We must, however, always bear in mind that freedom implies responsibility, meaning that we must demand much of ourselves. No method is more effective than the good example.


About Sultan

Senior Technology Architect with 10 years of experience in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, North and Latin America.
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