A portrait of designer Tom Dixon, in a jacket and arm folded.

Curious on Tom Dixon

For the first time, visitors to Tom Dixon’s MULTIPLEX in Milan will be able to see the much anticipated and discussed DELAKTIG platform. Take the time now to get to know Tom Dixon and hear all about the collaboration with IKEA.

The Facts

Tom Dixon was born in Tunisia and moved to England in 1963. He dropped out of the Chelsea School of Art to play bass in the band “Funkapolitan” before teaching himself first to weld, then to produce furniture. Tom was first noted as a designer in the mid-1980s but made a name for himself the following decade. Before setting up his design company in 2002, he worked for Cappellini and then Habitat as a Creative Director. Tom’s work can be found in some of the world’s most famous museums: Victoria & Albert Museum, Museum of Modern Art in New York and Tokyo and Centre Beaubourg (Pompidou). Tom has also won numerous design awards, and has a Ph.D. from the University of the Arts London.

The Collaboration

IKEA and Tom Dixon have created DELAKTIG, an aluminium sofa that’s designed as an open platform which means anyone – person or company – can create add-ons such as pillows, covers, lamps and sideboards to make the sofa more personal. Throughout the design process, IKEA and Tom Dixon also asked design students across the globe to come up with ideas for DELAKTIG. For the launch in February 2018, IKEA and Tom Dixon will also create add-ons and accessories for DELAKTIG, to be sold both in IKEA stores and through Tom Dixon.

Two men standing by a table with various aluminium profiles on it.
Collaborators. Marcus Engman, Head of Design at IKEA with Tom Dixon.

Thoughts from Tom Dixon

I didn’t spend more than six months in art school – I hated it. I played in a band, and had lots of time during the day, so I started doing metalwork and welding in a garage, and people started buying it. To think of an idea, make it and then have people give me money for it was amazing and liberating.

When I started being called a designer, I didn’t even know that was a profession. Even today, I’d rather say that I make things than label myself as a designer.

At the start of the collaboration with IKEA, I started thinking about what we can’t do here at my company but that I would like to do or have a point of view on. For Tom Dixon the company, it’s simply too difficult to do beds – it’s too size driven, too mattress driven, and has endless comfort requirements, depending on the country. But IKEA knows and can handle all of these things.  

My original idea for the collaboration was to do baby cots and cradles, the two extreme beds in every person’s life. IKEA didn’t like that idea at all.

Beds are interesting because they’re the prime unit of furniture – everyone needs somewhere to sleep, whether that’s in a prison, a luxury hotel, or someone’s home.

My original idea for the collaboration was to do baby cots and cradles, the two extreme beds in every person’s life. IKEA didn’t like that idea at all.  

Around the time the collaboration started, I became aware of the ‘hacking’ community around IKEA – these people that turn IKEA products into something unique and personal. I knew I wanted to explore that somehow.

The technology industry and how it works was a huge inspiration in the design process. I like to think of DELAKTIG as an open platform that can be transformed through different stages of life. The platform is made of aluminium which is both incredibly strong, to last a lifetime, and infinitely recyclable. The platform can then be pimped with accessories and add-ons that people can buy from my company or from IKEA. That might be a headboard, a lamp, a cover or maybe something that turns the platform into a workstation. But any person or company that wishes to create their own add-on can also do so – the more people that get involved in DELAKTIG, the better. I think that’s how a modern business should work.  

The technology industry and how it works was a huge inspiration in the design process.

To get some ideas and energy, we asked 75 master’s students with fresh minds to think of different ways to use DELAKTIG. When I saw their ideas, it made me realise its potential – that our idea for an open platform actually works.

Why did I collaborate with IKEA? Because you can learn a hell of lot. I also wanted to get involved in industrial production on a bigger scale, and IKEA has the keys to all those doors. It’s about breaking out of the perceived boundaries of my trade and trying something new and more democratic and affordable, which I have a real interest in. I’ve always been anxious not be categorised.

The grass is always greener on the other side. I look at IKEA and think, “If only I had a workshop like that, if only I had distribution like that, if only I had volumes like that. And they’re probably thinking, if only we were smaller, everything would be so much faster and easier. I think in a collaboration, that mutual fascination needs to be there.

The beauty of IKEA is that DELAKTIG can end up in anyone’s home, anywhere in the world. It’s not really about a specific customer – it’s about the fact that everyone needs a good bed.

We’re still arguing about whether it’s a sofa or a bed. It doesn’t really matter. It’s a space that people can personalise, and use in whatever way they want.

Don’t chuck DELAKTIG away if you’re finished with it – turn it into something else, something new. Or save it for the children so they can bring it with them when they move out.