Four people around a conference table, two wearing winter hats.

A playful state of mind

Can we play more in our everyday lives? And can IKEA help make this happen? Find out how it went when IKEA invited consumers to collaborate with IKEA co-workers to explore ideas for playful new products.

Play is a state of mind. It makes things that you have to do more fun. Yes, we have to go to work and do the washing up, but if you have a playful state of mind, it will be much easier. That is why IKEA is interested in play as an integral part of creating a better everyday life at home.

Lydia Choi-Johansson, IKEA Intelligence Specialist who is leading the research into play, says that “a deeper understanding of how people relate and think about play, now and in the future, will make it possible for us to define a new, and people orientated common starting point for the future IKEA offer.”

Inviting consumers as well as IKEA co-workers to a workshop is a way for IKEA to better understand why and how people play, as well as listen to and collect people’s ideas for more playful products. The focus for the workshop was to understand how the insights gained to date during this year’s Play research can be applied make the living room more playful.

Two pairs of legs beneath draping, black-and-white, polka-dot fabric.
Open Co-creation leader and a workshop participant assembling a prototype, featuring a hologram made from a smartphone.

The structure of the workshop gave all participants the tools to generate relevant and yes, sometimes completely new ideas. People went from the first idea to prototyping quite quickly.

IKEA Product Developer Catherina Klepper says that while developing IKEA bathroom products they often work in this way, but new for her was doing this with consumers. “It was valuable to know what they want in their homes. IKEA can think about, and strategise all they want, but having consumers there to tell you is very interesting. We can have that in our plans for the future.”

A deeper understanding of how people relate and think about play will make it possible for us to define a new, and people orientated common starting point for the future IKEA offer.

One recurring reflection during the many discussions about play was that as we get older, we dramatically tone down the play in our lives. This is because of societal norms and expectations.

Inspired by the findings from the report so far and mixing them with activities that take place in the living room resulted in some fascinating ideas for products (for more ideas, see below). Teams refined seemingly wild ideas as the day progressed. To close the day, each team pitched their favourite idea to a Dragons Den-type jury consisting of the workshop facilitators.

A man and a woman standing side by side, the latter holding a colourful sketch.
The team presenting PLAMP - a lamp that knows how to have fun.

Favourite ideas

Product Developer Catherina Klepper loved the idea for a couch the team named SKARA. The team behind it played with the idea of turning a regular sofa into a set of mini-rooms; a ball-room and a tent you can raise on the back of the sofa, creating a fantasy-universe for children or perhaps a guest room “So many objects in your home have a static life and take up a lot of room. SKARA can be a couch but it can also be much more. It’s a different way of thinking,” Catherina says.

Another idea that was a runaway success during the day was called the PLAMP – a lamp that changes your home environment according to your immediate play needs. Inside the PLAMP is an LED RGB projection system, and underneath is a microphone input. By projecting light and playing sound the user can change the mood of a room.

PLAMP was participant André Buha’s favourite idea, as he thought it was different. Open Co-creation leader, Tjeerd van Waijenburg liked the PLAMP’s simplicity. “To create an atmosphere with a simple thing like light is really smart. Of course, with lighting, you always try to do that, but with PLAMP you can do a lot more.”

In the end, the Dragons’ chose to invest their imaginary money in the Swiss-knife table – a table for the whole family to gather around; encouraging creativity and connection. On the outside, it looked like a coffee table, but in reality, you could slide board games out from underneath, store game pieces or art supplies in a drawer, and there was even an extendable stand for books and iPads. The jury liked it as a simple way to play, bringing people of all ages together.

A woman holding an object wrapped in plastic and decorative stickers.

Participant Erika Petersson with her group's prototype: the PLAMP.

A man standing in profile, holding a heart-shaped sticky note.

Open Co-creation leader Tjeerd van Waijenburg.

Product Developer Catherina was surprised at times when the conversations were focusing solely on digital technology. “Everything is getting more networked but we still need things that are physical and give you a sense of belonging. As much as your phone is important, you still need a blanket that keeps you warm.”

For participant Erika Petersson, limiting her thinking to the living room was tough, “I have lots of ideas for the whole home as well,” she told us.

By playing, we become open to possibilities and seeing the world through a lens where you look at the potential in activities rather than seeing them as a chore.

Tjeerd van Waijenburg, said that what he mostly valued about the day was the way of working together with consumers. “What I think is interesting is that customers don’t see the limits that we see within product development. So, they just see, yeah of course, “I wanna have my gym in my wardrobe”. That freedom I think is super interesting.”

Keep an eye out for the IKEA Play Report, coming in November, and if you do come across a sofa with an in-built ball-room, you know where you heard about it first!

Notes studded with smaller, heart-shaped, pink sticky notes.

Other ideas for playful products:
Immersive treadmill – a table that transforms into a treadmill if you turn it upside down.
Trampoline sofa – instead of a sofa bed, you have a trampoline underneath that you can take out and jump on.
Pet tubes in furniture – your pet hamster can run around in tubes built into furniture.
Fort sofa – cushions on your sofa are made for building forts.
Twin Ironing board – two adjoining ironing boards, talk and iron at the same time, spend time together whilst getting the job done.