Ikea’s New Food Packaging Makes Crab Paste Look Good

Stockholm Design Lab concocts fresh, simple packaging to help the furniture giant endear customers around the world to weird Swedish delicacies.

You know you’re a crack designer when you manage to make anchovy-style sprat fillets look appetizing. So it was when Ikea tapped Stockholm Design Lab, the wizards behind this excellent pharmacy rebrand, to refresh the packaging of its gourmet food recently.

Stockholm Design Lab opted for a stripped-down look, with lots of white space, a dearth of text, and big 2-D icons that visualize the contents at a glance (a tomato on the ketchup bottle, for instance). The packaging encompasses pasta, cheese, candy, condiments, booze, crackers, canned fish, and other staples of Ikea’s private food label, which was launched in 2006 with an emphasis on Swedish delicacies.

The simplicity of the design belies the challenges of the design brief. Ikea, purveyor of oppressive Swedishness that it is, insisted that the designers use the company’s house font, Verdana, exclusively. They also had to maintain the products’ Swedish-language headings—this for a company with more than 300 stores in 41 countries, 40 of which, presumably, do not understand Swedish. That placed "high demands on the design to be self-explanatory and inspirational at the same time," the designers say.

So the designers resorted to the international language of pictures. It’s hard to imagine something called "Skarpsill" (the aforementioned marinated sprat fillets) flying off the shelves anywhere outside of Sweden, but slap a cutesy fish on the can (with the nose cleverly doubling as the stay-tab), and you know exactly what you’re looking at, whether you’re in Saudi Arabia or the Dominican Republic. If only Ikea’s assembly manuals were that easy to read.

Stockholm Design Lab won gold in Cannes for the sprat cans recently. Read more here.

[Images courtesy of Stockholm Design Lab]

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  • Vaughn Gunnell

    Does anybody know when this rebrand took place? Last year?

    I think Woolworths SA and Ikea need to have a talk regarding the similarity of their  packaging designs.

    I love minimalist brand identity and design work, simplicity is the core of communication - BUT one problem is that undertaking this path without focusing heavily on visual concept puts you in the same boat as everybody else who chooses to brand themselves in this style.

    Great work, but differentiate through concept more. If either Ikea or Woolworths SA were to decide to launch their food products in each others market, I don't think many people would know the difference at first glance (except for the on-pack language perhaps).

  • fred hart

    You can decide to not read something, but you will never be able to not recognize. Case in point, this packaging, illiterate or not to the swedish language, this packaging still communicates because of its simple and paired down visuals. Wonderful work.

  • guest

    These package designs are aweful! I usually like simple designs but not for food... cheese looks like a block of plastic and paste tubes looks like tubes of adhesive or something. The worst one is the cod caviar tube (unfortunately not on the pictures above), it's really gross!

  • thisfatzoo

    This packaging has been around for several months, if not a year even in hungarian Ikea stores