A green background decorated with white LED bulbs. The bulbs colourful leads overlap to form a graphic pattern.

The one-euro challenge. Stopping at nothing to make LED bulbs truly affordable.

In 2011 IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad gave the IKEA lighting department a challenge: create LED bulbs that everyone can afford. Find out how Product Design Developer Paulina Pajak at IKEA of Sweden AB and her team tackled the seemingly impossible task.

How do you create an LED bulb that has a recommended retail price of just one euro? To Paulina Pajak, the task seemed impossible. But since it was IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad who was looking for the impossible, she just had to find a way. But before we meet the very troubled Paulina Pajak, let’s have a quick look at the environmental aspects of using LED bulbs.
Paulina Pajak, Product Design Developer at IKEA of Sweden AB, at her desk.

Paulina Pajak enjoying the creative process.

We are always looking for ways to decrease energy consumption so, in 2011, we decided to phase out sales of all light sources other than LED. We wanted to give as many people as possible the opportunity to make more sustainable choices. And how would we do that? By offering high quality LED at really low prices, that’s how. Producing expensive bulbs that only some people can afford wouldn’t make any sense at all. If we were to truly make a difference, high sales volume was key. And the key to volume was the low price.

A LED bulb uses about 85 % less energy than a traditional bulb.

Back to Älmhult, and Paulina and her team.

“We heard that Ingvar kept asking, ‘When can we have the one-euro bulb?’ and at the same time we felt it was impossible in so many ways. Technically for one, but we also felt that we lacked the inspiration to develop this light bulb. Working with lampshades and lamp bases was in our view so much more rewarding. So much more visible. We really had to work hard to get enthusiastic over this.”

We heard that Ingvar kept asking, ‘When can we have the one-euro bulb?’

Paulina Pajak, Product Design Developer, IKEA of Sweden AB

Paulina realised that they had to question everything.

“Think new. Think efficiency in production. Think new materials. Think about the whole value chain. Think. Think. Think! As I look back at this project, I think the biggest obstacle was to change our mindset, more than anything else. We were thinking traditionally as we tried to balance the tricky equation between form, function, quality, sustainability and low price. We had to think differently to solve this.”

Five components of two disassembled LED bulbs placed side by side on a green background.
The solution was to use fewer parts that were individually more expensive but which multitasked.
A white LED bulb on a cerise background. An IKEA LED bulb uses around 80% less energy than a regular bulb.

The development team struggled with every possible little detail until they were close to giving up. “We looked at everything, from parts to design and production, to see how we could streamline and keep costs down without affecting the quality.” She sighs and continues.

As the deadline came closer, Paulina and her colleagues were very close to giving up. But before accepting defeat, they decided to look at all the small details one last time. New meetings and tests were conducted, and then... it happened.

“We found that by choosing parts with higher quality for the LED part, we could get rid of certain parts in the bulb’s power supply, and thereby end up with a lower overall cost,” Paulina explains.

Fewer, but multitasking parts, that were more expensive actually resulted in a lower overall cost. And the IKEA LED bulb did end up with a recommended retail price of one euro.

I hope Ingvar was happy in the end.

Paulina Pajak, Product Design Developer, IKEA of Sweden AB