Student designer Joe Ling has created a proposal for a new graphic identity for Ikea.

The store’s current logo is first and foremost a nod to that first attribute: its colors are the colors of the Swedish flag.

“It’s instantly recognizable as being a Swedish institution, but does it suit Ikea as a company in 2014?” asks Ling. Answer: “I don’t think so.”

For a class at the Norwich University of the Arts, in the United Kingdom, Ling decided to articulate what Ikea does best: sell playful, flat-packed furniture.

Ling's version of the logo is a 3-D outline of the Ikea letters, stacked unevenly. The lines evoke the sketches of chair legs and tabletops found in Ikea’s instruction manuals, and they appear to be mid-motion, like a freeze-frame of a Schoolhouse Rock animation.

The theme of construction is sometimes more conceptual than it is illustrated: the employee tags, worn on lanyards, need to be placed together in a group of four, to create the entire logo.

“The identity is very much designed to be constructed by the person interacting with it, exactly like Ikea furniture,” Ling says.

“The identity is very much designed to be constructed by the person interacting with it, exactly like Ikea furniture,” Ling says.

Co.Design

A Playful New Brand Identity For Ikea

A student designer proposes replacing Ikea's dated logo with something fresh and lively.

Ikea's traditional blue and yellow logo was designed as a nod to the company's Swedish heritage. It's easy to recognize and can be seen from a distance, as you drive up to the warehouse-sized store. Other than that, the logo is pretty bland.

Ikea’s merchandise, however, has many characteristics: It’s minimalist, affordable, space-friendly, and has tongue-twisting Swedish product names. Its graphic identity just doesn't really speak to any of them. "It’s instantly recognizable as being a Swedish institution, but does it suit Ikea as a company in 2014?” asks student designer Joe Ling. “I don’t think so."

Ling decided to do some course correcting, in a project for a class at the Norwich University of the Arts, in the United Kingdom. The class was asked to choose from a list of companies that included, in addition to Ikea, Bang & Olufsen, and toy maker Meccano. Ling's take: Not only does the Ikea logo look dated, but it doesn’t articulate what Ikea does best, which is to sell playful, flat-packed furniture.

“I remember as a child going to Ikea with my family and running up and down the seemingly never-ending aisles of cardboard boxes filled with flat packaged furniture,” he tells Co.Design. “I thought the most recognizable way to represent Ikea would be if the branding itself had an element of construction.”

Ling's logo is a 3-D outline of the Ikea letters, stacked unevenly. The lines evoke the sketches of chair legs and tabletops found in Ikea’s instruction manuals, and they appear to be mid-motion, like a freeze-frame of a Schoolhouse Rock animation. The theme of construction is sometimes more conceptual than it is illustrated: Employee tags, worn on lanyards, must be joined together, in a group of four, to create the entire logo. For the instruction manuals, Ling included a sleeve that has to come off. “The identity is very much designed to be constructed by the person interacting with it, exactly like Ikea furniture,” Ling says.

Graphic redesigns don’t come easy. In 2009, Ikea accosted type nerds everywhere when they swapped out the heritage-rich Futura font in their catalogs with the more generic Verdana typeface. Because Futura was created by a German designer in 1920, and Verdana was designed later, for computers, the move signaled to many a philosophical shift away from original design.

But this newer proposal also prompts the question: If Ling's redesign took hold, would it make consumers think more about the manual labor that lies ahead, and less about Ikea's design point of view? “A brand’s identity has to communicate exactly what that business does. If it doesn’t do that, it falls at the first hurdle,” Ling says about his project. Indeed, the implications of shopping at Ikea are hardly a secret by now. For many, it's one of the benefits, because flat-packed furniture is more efficient, and is part and parcel with Ikea's success in opening stores in more than 40 countries, and working with young designers from around the world.

And if that kills your shopping aspirations, there's always Taskrabbit.

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16 Comments

  • Although a nice effort by the student, I personally don't think this concept would work.

    Such a radical change would not sit well with consumers. The original Ikea logo is an iconic design, recognized all over the globe or wherever Ikea is sold. What makes Ikea stick out is not the assembling of their stuff (no fun and pain in the rear) but rather the experience of great prices, easy shopping, simple construction of their products combined with a vibrant and youthful design.

    The current logo in my opinion reflects all that. I also like that the log also shows pride in swedish craftmanship, represented in the natl. colours blue and yellow.

    The re-design would be more appropriate for a framing or do-it-yourself store, but that's just my two cents worth.

  • Susan Feinberg Fireside

    While I see how he integrated some of the color palette to tie in some brand equity, the selling point for me (and I don't think I'm alone) is the affordable design. The frustrating aspect is having to put everything together. This identity plays heavy on a selling point that might not be the most positive. Also, the 3d aspect, while having some playful elements, feels to much like someone got the extrude and bevel tool in Illustrator. Kudos to the student willing to put his work out there. It's a learning process.

  • IKEA have a ridiculous amount of equity in their blue and yellow palette, notwithstanding their Swedish heritage. That should be a starting point for any rebrand, even a student exercise.

    Also, given their product model, wouldn't a 'flat' design be more appropriate.

  • Wow there is some harsh comments in here for any designer, let alone a student. What a grumpy bunch of readers you get here Fast Company!!

    Good work Joe - I don't expect anyone else commenting/criticising has produced anything better or even close to your design.

  • It is not easy being a student graphic designer, there is too much eye candy and really 'cool' identity systems. The biggest hurdle for a student is separating 'cool' design from effective design. As far as this is concerned, Ikea has had no problem adapting and has appealed to a huge customer segment. This identity seems a little shallow and made for/by someone in their early 20's. I would suggest that Joe be very proud of the exposure his work has and consider that 80% of design should be concept and research and that execution makes up the remaining 20%–not the other way around.

  • Michelle Shahar

    It has great appeal, however it seems too close to a Lego theme with the bright red, blue and yellow dominating the cards. Perhaps keeping it in black and white would tie it more to Ikea's assembly driven business and keep the use of color as a highlight feature for any callouts. Also, keeping with the brand's identity/fonts would help. Other than that, the overall design approach has great appeal in that it can be used across many mediums/platforms.

  • A logo is supposed to make a brand instantly recognizable even if the audience sees but a snippet of the logotype (in this case). The solution showcased here falls apart when any part of it is obscured.