I think I need some new furniture for my home. But here’s the thing: I’m terrible at shopping for furniture. There are just too many things to consider! The basic shape of the furniture, what it’s made of, does it have any extra useful features, does it match the rest of the furniture I already own, etc. etc.
When I think of what goes into good design of furniture, my mind tends to jump to form and function — it should serve its primary purpose, and it should also look good. After all, part of the purpose of furniture is decoration, right?
But this is where some of you might argue, “Hey! There are other things that go into good design too!” “I want my furniture to be affordable!” “Furniture should be durable and long-lasting!” And you’re not wrong. Like I said, there are many things to consider in furniture design.
Essentially, you can boil down what makes up good furniture design to five key features — form, function, sustainability, quality, and low price. IKEA dubs this Democratic Design.
I only learned about democratic design recently and it does a good job of letting me know what to look for when buying furniture. The 5 dimensions of democratic design make up the most important needs that furniture should satisfy:
- Function: This is pretty much step one. You want your furniture to be able to do what it’s supposed to do; a bookshelf should be able to hold books, a lamp should be able to produce light, and so on.
- Form: As mentioned before, furniture is supposed to look good; it’s supposed to embellish your house and make it look more appealing to live in. Have you ever seen a house without furniture? It’s really depressing.
- Sustainability: Ideally, furniture should be durable. I wouldn’t want a furniture shop to bamboozle me and sell me a product that I have to go back and buy every week because it keeps breaking.
- Quality: Sustainability comes with quality. If a piece of furniture is of good quality, in theory it would last longer. Imagine sitting on a chair and having it splinter every time you do, that’s bad quality, you don’t want that.
- Low Price: I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’m earning a lot. Sure, I might want lavish furniture, but more importantly it should be affordable… Unless you have a friend that keeps gifting you expensive furniture for free. (In that case, hook me up!)
In their decades-long experience in furniture production, democratic design is the philosophy that guides IKEA in everything they do. By creating products that meet all 5 facets of democratic design, IKEA continues to offer a range of products that is hard to dislike, simply because they’re likely to meet all our needs.
The Stories Furniture Tells
Speaking of IKEA, they have a series of videos that showcases some of their products that best encompass democratic design. But the most interesting thing about these videos is that they have a story to tell.
Have you ever wondered where the bamboo that makes up your chair comes from? Or who it was that decided to make the chair out of bamboo to start with? Well, there’s a video for that.
Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the design, development and testing of a laundry basket? There’s a video for that too.
I have a fascination with storytelling and these videos intrigue me because we don’t normally think about the details behind our furniture, and it’s fun to learn about them. It’s also a reminder that stories don’t just come from books or films or video games, they’re all around us.