After leaving the school car park at 7am in the morning, being fully awakened by Mr Seymour’s Kylie CD blaring throughout the minibus (which most of us tried to counteract with our own earphones…), we finally set forth on our Higher Product Design trip down to IKEA in Edinburgh.
The 3 ½ hour drive went by fairly quickly, between short kips on the seats or admiring the foggy views, and taking a short stop at the Ballinluig Motorcafé for breakfast, Mr Seymour battled through police diversions to reach the bacon rolls.
Finally, we reached IKEA and joined Sales Manager Liz for a tour of the premises and to catch a glimpse of the vast operation behind and front of store, to the journey that is the design process which every product must gruellingly go through just to reach the shelves. She explained the policies and principles of IKEA and how they reach each consumer with clever target marketing strategies.
We met some of the back stage stars of the company- the designers, joiners and electricians working away in their respective workshops. We were then allowed to wander the store as a consumer and singled out some of the products that we thought were designed to get the most out of their intriguing simplicity. It was interesting to see how many products incorporated the iconic IKEA flat- pack design used to minimise space and storage: pots dismantled and placed inside one another; boxes folded down to the size of a mere magazine; and vases and watering cans stacked so that 5 or so would easily take up the space where only one would before. Simplicity – which we found often rivalled complexity where aesthetics were concerned – and the capability and benefits of the flat packing, were probably what made IKEA into the renowned company it is today, along with the dedication of the staff (both here and in factories abroad) and the layout of the store that maximised the use of the floor space (which also left us lost half the time…)
The IKEA trip was a truly unique educational insight into the working of how such a successful global product design and manufacturing company manages to get that all important balance of purpose and aesthetic flare just spot on.
Rachel McCoach, 5T2