Four people standing side by side in front of a wall mural, holding odd objects.

Students take on DELAKTIG

During Milan design week students from the Royal College of Art in London and Musashino Art University in Tokyo exhibited their ideas for DELAKTIG, the sofa designed by IKEA in collaboration with Tom Dixon.

The project began late in 2016, when a team from IKEA together with Tom Dixon presented DELAKTIG, an aluminium seating platform, to three top design schools around the world.

Why was the team doing a tour of the world’s top design schools? IKEA wants customers to change and personalise DELAKTIG to suit their needs. Who better than to kick-start this process of co-creation than the up and coming designers of the world.

Where at IKEA we’re very product focused and solving people’s needs at home, the students took it very conceptually and looked at how the world is and how their lives are.

“Co-creation is very normal now, particularly in the digital world. I could imagine it’s going to become much more popular in the physical world as well,” said Tom Dixon at the launch event in Milan.

The Royal College of Art was one of three stops. As well as London, the DELAKTIG team visited Musashino Art University in Tokyo and Parsons School of Design in New York.

Ian Higgins, Senior Tutor at the Royal College of Art, described the brief: “Tom Dixon walked in and showed us the prototype of the aluminium extrusion, and the brief was effectively, go crazy, do what you want, the more outlandish the better.” He went on to say that “it was fantastic to feel like we were bringing something to the table that was valued.”

A painting with blocks of colours.
One of many paintings by Mia Brossollet.

Creative Leader at IKEA, James Futcher thought it was interesting that the students viewed DELAKTIG very much from their point of living. “Where at IKEA we’re very product focused and solving people’s needs at home, the students took it very conceptually and looked at how the world is and how their lives are.”

Proposals covered both the digital and physical worlds. One proposal was a kind of cyber-sofa, where you can pull up a green screen on a roll from behind the sofa and place yourself in any fake situation.

The pertinent issues of our time worked their way into the design thinking of the students – there were ideas that transformed the sofa into a way to protect the user in case of terror and natural disasters. One sofa could become an inflatable device on which you could float away on rising flood waters. Another could lift up leaving space underneath in which to hide, whilst a large object, perhaps a building is falling on top of you.

Part of a colorful DELAKTIG sofa made by textile designer Mia Brossollet.

Textile designer Mia Brossollet created a way to add textures, colours and pattern to DELAKTIG.

A protoype of the DELAKTIG sofa made by Shoko Sato.

Prototype by Shoko Sato from Musashino Art University in Tokyo. A simple and beautiful idea according to Creative Leader James Futcher. Using the same dimensions, the leg of the sofa just flows out beautifully into a lamp and coat stand.

Work exhibited in Milan

When the students from the RCA were rushing to finish their final presentations after the one-week workshop in London, they did not expect that their models and sketches would be on display in the beautiful Teatro Manzoni, in Milan which was taken over for design week with Tom Dixon’s Multiplex.

It wasn’t just models and sketches exhibited in Teatro Manzoni. Four students were in Milan to talk about their visit to the IKEA Prototype Shop in Älmhult, where they developed full-size prototypes of their versions of DELAKTIG.

“It was good to have real-world input into what was just a few squiggles on a page,” says global innovation student at the RCA John Gulian. It was a reality check when product developer James Futcher stuck his head in between two cushions and said, “see a baby can get stuck in here, you’ve gotta make the gap wider.”

John Gulian created a versatile sofa based on his own need for a sofa indoors and outdoors, but the twist is that he only wants one sofa. He saw potential in the lightweight weather resistant aluminium frame for a sofa that can be moved around easily and withstand the elements.

A coloured sketch of a sofa.
Sketch of the DELAKTIG sofa made by John Giulian.
An aluminium frame outlines the angular, meandering shape of a long sofa.
Sketch by Giulio Gasparri Zezza of his version of the DELAKTIG sofa.

Product design student Giulio Gasparri Zezza was struggling to come up with a great idea, so his strategy was to take the sofa apart, all of it – the pillows, the frame, every single component. The IKEA team noticed that had paid extra attention to the aluminium extrusion that is the corner-stone of DELAKTIG.

He had a surprising proposition for the IKEA team, he designed an inside corner for DELAKTIG which enabled the frame to become an endless rail. It could start in one corner and be shaped however you want. He called the sofa OÄNDLIG, meaning “infinite” in Swedish and sees it to be used in a more public context.

According to James Futcher, his idea was quickly picked up by the aluminium supplier Sapa who developed a prototype, which was on display in Milan.

A man holding a model of a sofa.
Product design student Giulio Gasparri Zezza, and his model that would become the sofa OÄNDLIG.

Another idea that IKEA chose to take one-step further was by Mia Brossollet from the textile and weave studio. With textile design in mind, she developed a platform called A website for customising your sofa with different patterns, colours and textures. She wanted to make something she could see in a comfy living room, building on what she thought was the masculine DELAKTIG prototype.

Whilst prototyping Mia created original drawings and paintings which she could print on real fabric in the IKEA Prototype Shop instead of on A3-sized paper like she normally does at school. The experience of wrapping it around the cushions completely changed the products. She said of the experience that “it was good to be outside in the real world with real people, in school, it’s just students and teachers.”

IKEA used the week in Milan to gauge responses to the work. It was announced during Democratic Design Days that the sofa designed by Giulio Gasparri Zezza will be heading into production.

Design of the DELAKTIG sofa.

Giulio Gasparri Zezza's version of the sofa – which he calls OÄNDLIG. The frame is an endless rail, you start in one corner and shape it how you want.

A person with a miniature sofa prototype in hand.