A black-and-white portrait of a woman.

Surrounded by beautiful things

Using her hands is a way for designer Hanna Dalrot at IKEA to create balance in her designs. She enjoys the challenge of making beautiful design in the context of mass production. For her, working at IKEA means an opportunity to influence the everyday life of people.

”As a kid, I loved to draw and make things with my hands. The play with design and colour took a more serious form during my college years when I discovered screen printing and started experimenting with porcelain and cloth. Before applying for design schools, I studied handcrafted art, and for a long time I was set on becoming a potter.”

Despite having access to the world’s most technically advanced tools at IKEA, creating by hand is still a central part of her creative process. “When making three-dimensional products I often make models in wire or paper. Before, when spinning clay, the objects grew and took form in my hands in a way that I think suits me. I really enjoy making things. The way I find balance in my designs is using my hands and getting tactile.”

It’s a totally different experience seeing patterns on screen and in real life. The two-dimensional has to be translated into the three-dimensional.

One example of this is the STOCKHOLM collection, which is one of the most inspiring projects she’s been involved in up to date. Starting with handmade watercolour drawings in 24×30 cm that she digitalized, a variety of motifs were made that took influence from water, and the lights that play on its surface. The patterns were used on textiles. “After scanning, I clean up my drawing, enhancing colours and contrasts, removing errors. Then I make the pattern report in Illustrator. A big challenge is getting the scales right since it’s a totally different experience seeing patterns on screen and in real life. The two-dimensional has to be translated into the three-dimensional.”

A good tool to do this is the textile printer she has access to in the prototype shop, with this, she can print on twenty or so different materials like cotton or linen to get the right feeling. “It’s really important since fabric is seldom used flat, but used as a curtain, on a sofa or cushion. Having this kind of support makes the result so much better.”

A woman looking at fabric with a printed, black-and-white pattern.
A portrait of a woman with her long hair in a bun.

Hanna Dalrot is especially proud about the textiles used for STOCKHOLM. Partly because it took a dynamic effort to bring it all together, but mainly because of the end result. “Democratic Design means design accessible to everyone. For economic reasons, we couldn’t print them digitally. Using more traditional printing techniques meant working together with our supplier in Turkey for a year and a half to reach the result we wanted. It’s not in every project that you get to keep so much of your creative strive, but we had a great team and a supplier who walked the extra mile to make it possible for us in this case.”

Nature is often a source of inspiration for Hanna which comes through in many of her designs and her use of natural materials.

“I’m drawn to the structures, colours and shapes of nature. Even if the IKEA PS 2017 colour scheme that I had a hand in might seem extreme, if you look closely at a beetle for example, you can find these sort of colour shades in nature.”

As a designer, you are not alone but always in a team. The concept of Democratic Design is omnipresent at IKEA, and the cost awareness is built into the walls here.

Stubbornness, or patience if you will, is an excellent personality trait as a designer in mass production she finds, because of the drawn out processes. “As a designer, you are not alone but always in a team. The concept of Democratic Design is omnipresent at IKEA, and the cost awareness is built into the walls here. Democratic Design can also be used as a tool that drives a project forward when you are at a crossroad and have to make a collective decision. It also ensures quality products, which is a necessity when you produce at the pace and extent as we do at IKEA.”

What has influenced her the most since starting at IKEA is the depth of experience to lean on at the company. “In this house, there is so much competence. There are technicians and others that have spent their entire lives perfecting the process at IKEA. To be mentored by them and have the opportunity to work together drives me to develop further. It has obviously affected my products in the design process. To team up to reach a goal is a really nice thing.”

A pattern made up of multiple square dots in shades of grey and blue.
A watercolour pattern in grey and blue shades.
Watercolour paintings turned into prints for the STOCKHOLM collection.

Another challenge that is close to her heart is to try to incorporate the feeling of handcraft and uniqueness in the products. “I think it adds a quality when you can see the hands touch in the end result. For example Iina Vuorivirtas’ beautiful vases in IKEA PS 2017 where she used five different glazes to create a variation that gave them a real uniqueness. In my mind that is one of my jobs as a designer, to twist and challenge, not just make the expected.”

Design improves our everyday life, both in practical and spiritual terms.

”As a designer at IKEA you make something that reaches a broad audience, and you actually make a difference for the everyday life of people. I find that others here take that opportunity full hearted. That’s big. Sometimes it’s surreal when I walk into a store and see my work there, or when a magazine writes about my products.”

Beauty has an intrinsic value that she thinks is worth protecting. “Design improves our everyday life, both in practical and spiritual terms, working through its charm. I’m no industrial designer. Function is important, but I love surrounding myself with beautiful things. That might sound superficial, but that’s fine with me.”

Hanna has recently started developing ÖVERALLT, a collaboration with creatives from seven different African countries. The collection is exploring the notion of urban modern rituals and of course, we’ll be keeping a close eye on all the twists and turns of the design process here on IKEA Today.

If you want to check out Hanna Dalrot’s design, she has most recently contributed to the STOCKHOLM collection.

A curved pattern formed by clusters of short, black lines on a white background.
Hanna's contribution to the AVSIKTLIG collection, a collaboration with Swedish design icons 10-gruppen.

Fast facts about Hanna Dalrot:
Reading at the moment: Linn Ullmann & interior decoration magazines.
Gives me energy: Nature, cooking, family & friends and my miniature poodle King.
Words I dislike: Harsh words.
Favourite designer: I really enjoy Liselotte Watkins illustrations. They have a lovely balance of colour and form. I’m impressed by concepts that go hand in hand with business, such as Other Stories, Rodebjer and HAY. I like when the handcraft is a ground piece in the designs, like in Lisa Hilland’s furniture.