Two men beside a chair and a pedestal with a small red wedge on it, in front of a large white display wall with black text.

IKEA x Virgil – progress report from New York

IKEA is, together with Virgil Abloh, exploring what makes a first home for the millennials and what kind of designs will satisfy their practical needs and emotional aspirations. On 30 April, IKEA threw a workshop in New York to dive deep into some of these questions and share a sneak peek of some of the first prototypes with a group of millennials.

IKEA is still in the middle of the creative process. In this progress report, we got the chance to see some of the product ideas for the collection that will be named MARKERAD, which is translated to “highlighted”. So, what has Virgil, Henrik Most, Creative Leader at IKEA, and the team been working on since they shared the first ideas for the rugs? Looks like one of the products is a chair.

“It wouldn’t really make sense to introduce another chair as a kind of replica of something that has already been done. If we want to reinterpret the design history, we need to twist it. We need to take it to another level and make it more relevant for today”, says Henrik.

“Yeah, that’s why I try to embed an artistic quality in things that you already have. So the chair has elevated because it feels more like an art object than a typical chair that just serves it functions with four equal legs”, adds Virgil.

A group of people in conversation in front of a white display wall with black text on it.

Discussions during the workshop in New York.

A group of people seated in a ring in front of a red rug with blue text hanging on a white wall.

“I understand IKEA already has display cases, so my role is to think of something else that they don’t already do. And that is strong enough to be a valid concept.”
A wooden chair with one leg on a small red wedge on the floor, with a drawing of the same chair taped to the wall behind it.

The chair.

Two wooden chair legs with one leg standing on a red wedge; a black paper tag hangs from the seat.

"Work in progress" everything is prototypes.

Therefore the chair has a doorstop attached to one of its legs. The doorstop is a kind of everyday icon but still something that might not be considered to have a high design value. Here it has been used in an unexpected way, an interruption with a thought behind it.

“I had this image of an airplane wheel with two chunks like door stops to stop it. And I just posed the question; the person who designed the wheel must think he is God’s gift to earth. But the person who designed the doorstop is equally impactful because he can stop a plane in its tracks.” says Virgil.

Two wooden chairs with one leg each standing on a red wedge inside a square with dashed lines painted in black on the floor.

The team is curious to know what happens when product design and street culture join avant-garde, readymade art practise in new constellations. Another product the team is working on is a display cabinet. The way it’s designed with glass makes it possible to display your favourite sneakers or something that has personal value rather than storing things behind closed doors. Like the door stop on the chair, the handle, which is a red nail, manifests the same thinking on the display cabinet.

“I really like the idea that you took the nail, again, a universal, anonymous no-name design and then actually transformed it into a functional and also a sculptural handle”, says Henrik.

To ask yourself “why” is crucial for Virgil when designing, regardless if it’s a water bottle or a handle. That is how he starts to think of what will be his interruption.

“I understand IKEA already has display cases, so my role is to think of something else that they don’t already do. And that is strong enough to be a valid concept”, explains Virgil.

A pair of white sneakers on a glass shelf inside a glass cabinet.

"Display your icons."

A glass display cabinet with sneakers inside, in front of a large white display wall with text on it.

Among the other prototypes is a take on the classic FRAKTA bag, the “Blue” rug, the “Keep off” rug and cushion covers. The limited edition collection called MARKERAD will launch at the end of 2019. It will be available in all IKEA markets at IKEA prices.