How the IKEA catalogue cracked what domestic bliss means in different cultures

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How the IKEA catalogue cracked what "domestic bliss" means in different cultures

Автор: Anne Quito

For IKEA fans, the last week of July is like Christmas.

Beginning July 31, IKEA’s highly-anticipated catalogue will appear in millions of mailboxes around the world. With a print run of 203 million copies this year, the catalogue ranks alongside the Bible, the Koran, and Harry Potter as one of the world’s most-distributed books.1320952367_.png.2d4f358e8765ce6e81a968af56088632.png

For 67 years, the IKEA catalogue has served as a product showcase, design inspiration and manifesto for the 74-year old furniture company’s grand vision of creating a “better everyday life for the many people.” But “many people” means many different versions of the good life. Therefore the 324-page catalogue, a herculean production that eats up 70% of IKEA’s annual marketing budget, must be also customized for different regions and religions around the world.

IKEA has ethnographers who conduct field research into the domestic life of different regions through home visits, interviews and panels. While the researchers’ “Life at Home” consumer insights research goes to the development of new products, it also helps catalogue creators plan the content and styling of local editions.

This year, it took the Swedish company 18 months and a hundreds-strong army of photographers, art directors, copywriters, proofreaders, prop masters, carpenters, photo retouchers, programmers and CGI specialists to produce the catalogue’s 1,400 pieces of art and 24,000 blocks of text. While the words are generally the same worldwide, IKEA’s team does go the extra mile to swap out subtle, tell-tale details in 72 different region-specific editions.

Most catalogue variations are introduced to reflect differences in product range by region but their research informs the framing of each vignette. Knowing that kitchens in China are much smaller than the US for example, catalogue designers crop into a photograph and reposition elements in post-production, to illustrate a cozier cooking space.

During a tour of IKEA’s sprawling photo studio in Älmhult, Sweden in June, IKEA staffers pointed to a neat row of near-identical white doors, explaining that they might swap a typically European plain solid door to a paneled model that’s more common in the US. They’ll do this for flooring, food or mattresses to reflect the variations in sizes around the world. The regionspecific variations are subtle, but deliberated.

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