I have been struggling for the last few months with an addiction... an IKEA addiction. An addition that I am not sure I was completely responsible for creating, but more on that later.
It is a habit which, I really had to learn the hard way, that I needed to kick. Here is my problem: Their product line has a really powerful draw. Their products all look like they fit together (with each other). This gives the impression of harmony. Meanwhile many of their products look like they are minimalistic in design. That is, they are smooth and sexy and and visually simplistic. I say look minimalistic, because most of the products from IKEA have a well designed (short) life span. That is, the products simply do not last beyond the first intended use - and this is by design. The way I understand the product is that in the IKEA business model, the products are not what create the business money, rather it is the service of distributing the products which is viewed as the money maker. So, the business metrics are set up as: "How many products do I distribute?", not "How products do I sell?". While both metics are important, The first puts an importance on the distribution, the second puts an emphasis on the monetary value of the sale, or the value of a lasting product (value presented to the customer). This is why I suggest that the IKEA product's life cycle is also designed. I have had to learn that the hard way. I like the look, but beyond that "IKEA life" seems to be designed to bring the customer into a consumer relationship with IKEA, such that the customer must buy multiple products due to short life spans. Consider the difference between the IKEA Expedit series and their KALLAX series (several differences are exposited well by Peter Robinson). Expedit was a series with solid construction and a production run of several decades. However, The Expedit product had a fantastic secondary market because they lasted and were hearty. The Expedit series was replaced by KALLAX. A less hearty, physically lighter product series.
Consider the following review from YouTube.
From a management perspective, IKEA has applied design principles not only to the product but also to the acquisition process and to the life cycle of the product. They have put new design requirements on the life span, causing a redesign of the product. In a way, this de-emphasizes the product and elevates the need for service mechanism of delivering the product - The service has been assessed and re-designed. For a good book about applying these principals to your business read: Service Design Thinking. Or for a quick check Service Design look at Wikipedia.
My distain for IKEA rivals my distain for Facebook. They also have an interesting product, but one is never sure where the platform is going. This makes the product life span (as a user understands it) quite susceptible to uncertainty. Apple products could also be similarly considered to have gone through this design phase. Consider when Apple started soldering RAM to the motherboard (because their secondary market has been limited by making certain parts "non-upgradable").
I have been plotting my escape from life drainers. This means that I need to be able to find solutions elsewhere with other products. I think I found my solution to the IKEA wormhole on a DIY site or two: http://www.ana-white.com , and http://designsbystudioc.com.
There are several projects I have been looking at doing. One is a shoe rack for my front door area. These sites were a good place to get ideas and example plans - to see how things go together. Another project in progress is a coffee table on casters for my living room.
Dinning room table
Laundry Basket solution
Some interesting links about Apple and design:
These are here because I talk about Apple designing the life cycle of their products. I don't link to them because they are not a major thrust of this post.