Ikea in print: on successful catalogue design

Layouts are based on research gathered from Ikea’s annual home visits around the world. “These insights are then used by our in-house interior designers to develop our room layouts … so all of our rooms are inspired by real homes,” says Johan Wickmark, manager of Ikea communications.

“Each catalogue production takes about 13 months from the time that we brief our creative team to the catalogue landing on people’s doorstep,” he adds. “Approximately 300 people are involved in the development … and this includes creatives, carpenters, photographers, interior designers and prop stylists. This year we also had a food stylist.”

BELOW: Catalogue covers, 1979-2000. The catalogue was first published in 1951

While the majority of images in the catalogue remain the same for different regions, there are some subtle differences. “We try to be relevant for everyone, but at the same time, it is important to understand the differences between countries,” adds Wickmark. “This means that
sometimes, we do have to make small market-relevant adaptations. For example, most homes in the UK have hallways, but this is not the case in other markets. So if we see that more homes have a front door that leads into a living room, then we would show entrance solutions as part of the living room,” he adds.

Most of the images featured are made using a combination of photography and CGI. This allows the brand to produce multiple versions of one set, or room, for different markets, without having to carry out multiple photo shoots.

A CG bathroom for this year’s catalogue. Only the magazines and towels are real.
A CG bathroom for this year’s catalogue. Only the magazines and towels are real.

“There is often a traditional photograph as a base. This means we would build some of the products, shoot them and then adapt them using CGI technology. An example would be our kitchen images as we would adapt them using 3D rendering to use country specific appliances. For each solution, we choose the production method that ensures the best cost and quality,” explains Wickmark.

Few images are created using 100% CGI (despite widespread reports stating that 75% are), though Wickmark says most kitchen appliances and bathroom layouts are now 3D renders. “The bathroom shot on page 137 of this year’s Ikea catalogue (see below) is nearly completely created using this technology. Only the magazines and towels were actually photographed,” he says. Renders are incredibly convincing, but Wickmark says some surfaces such as metal and textiles “that look soft and natural” are still difficult to produce. “Again, often the best solution [for these] is a mix between real photos and CGI,” he adds.

While many of us now shop for homeware online, Wickmark says the Ikea catalogue remains popular with customers around the world. In recent years, the brand has introduced a smaller format and chlorine-free paper to reduce the catalogue’s environmental impact, but there are no plans to stop printing it for now. Ikea has, however, been adding several digital features to its catalogue, including augmented reality which allows people to visualise Ikea products in their home.

“I don’t think we’ll ever communicate through one channel solely, but…people today still enjoy the printed edition,” says Wickmark. “We are experimenting with how we can improve people’s experience with Ikea beyond the printed page, so this year, there will be 50-plus films in addition to a number of [online] image galleries and 360° views. There’s also a new feature that lets the viewer feel like they’re actually walking around a room,” he says.

Making Ikea’s 2016 catalogue, which includes augmented reality features and 360 degree room views
Making Ikea’s 2016 catalogue, which includes augmented reality features and 360 degree room views

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