Sarah Fager, Senior Designer, IKEA of Sweden AB.

Democratic Design. Making great design available to everyone.

The five dimensions we call Democratic Design are at the heart of every product we make. Find out what they are and how we use them in our Q&A with Sarah Fager, Senior Designer at IKEA of Sweden AB.

What is Democratic Design?

“Democratic Design is a tool we use when we develop and evaluate the products we put into our range. It has five dimensions, which are function, form, quality, sustainability and low price. When there is a balance between all five, we consider that the design is democratic.”

What do the dimensions mean?

“The form is for beauty, it’s what attracts the eye, and the object has to be functional, otherwise it won’t be used. When objects and materials last over time, that’s quality. Being mindful of resources is something that has been with us since the start. We don’t like complicated solutions and wastefulness, it’s bad for everyone. Part of sustainability is about using exactly the right materials for the function, and using them sparingly, but sustainability also means taking responsibility all the way through a product’s life. It starts with how we source materials, to the people who produce the product, all the way through to our clients.”

It’s basically our culture and values boiled down to five dimensions, together with simply using common sense in everything we do.

Sarah Fager, Senior Designer, IKEA of Sweden AB

But is it possible to create a really low price for a product that lives up to all the other demands?

“This is our aim and when we don’t succeed, we don’t live up to the IKEA vision. If the price is too high, we need to work with the other dimensions to lower the price, by looking at the materials, changing the design, or going through the production process again.”

So, do all IKEA products live up to the five dimensions of Democratic Design?

“The five dimensions are always represented in the products but the balance between them is not always equal. We constantly review our range and take out or improve the products that don’t live up to our customers’ expectations.”

The five principles of Democratic Design – form, function, low price, quality and sustainability – are spelled out with food ingredients on a table.
The five dimensions of Democratic Design.

Do you have an example of a product you designed that really captures the dimensions of Democratic Design?

“Yes, the FLISAT desk for kids. The price is fair, it can be height-adjusted so it grows with the child, and it has smart functions such as a tilted tabletop and paper holder. We hope these functions encourage children to be creative. It’s very high quality and has a classic form so that it can be loved and passed on to future generations. The material is sustainable and renewable – wood.  It’s quite simply Democratic Design.”

A wooden FLISAT desk for children stands against a peach wall, where two rolls of drawing paper fall down behind the desk.
FLISAT is made from wood, a sustainable and renewable material.

Are any of the five dimensions more important than the others?

“No, they are all equally important – it’s a question of balance. We usually notice if something is missing during the design and development phase, and then we act on that and make it right.”

How does Democratic Design work in everyday life?

“This may sound a bit odd, but Democratic Design flows through our veins. It’s basically our culture and values boiled down to five dimensions, together with simply using common sense in everything we do. So we’ve more or less always worked like this, only it’s become an actual working tool more recently. To me, that’s both fair and clever.”

Without Democratic Design, we would not live up to our vision to create a better everyday life for the many people.

Sarah Fager Senior Designer, IKEA of Sweden AB