It's hard to believe that 75% of the images you see in an Ikea catalog are CG. Like this one.

And this one (and every other image in this post).

The shift from practical photography to computer-generated imagery has been going on for the last eight years.

In some cases, like this one, a real set will be photographed. The image won't work correctly. So the digital team will just re-create the entire thing with the lighting they're after.

What's insane to me is the little details that look so good.

That wood grain is incredible.

Of course, when you look at enough images, the flaws can stick out. Like that vent in the middle of the screen just doesn't quite sit right with everything else.

But for the most part, it's astounding work.

Truly astounding work. I mean, look at these dishes!

Right now, the digital team is re-creating analog products at what you might consider a 1:1 scale.

But the details matter. Your eyes can perceive even the threads of a couch in a larger living room.


75% Of Ikea’s Catalog Is Computer Generated Imagery

You could have fooled us. Wait, actually, you did.

The best special effects are often the ones you never notice—which may make Ikea the most skillful special effects studio in the world. The Swedish furniture company has been aggressively ramping up its use of computer generated imagery in their catalogs. Ikea's first CG photo was a Bertil pinewood chair in 2006. By 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported that 25% of their products were CG. Today, that figure has ballooned to 75%.

Yes, that means three out of four things you see in an Ikea catalog are fake. The fixtures. The furniture. The walls. The light. Why? It beats shipping endless pieces of prototype furniture halfway across the world for photo shoots.

CGSociety recently published a deep look at Ikea's in-house production studio, which is responsible for the shift, and it’s full of fascinating factoids. Ikea's bank of 25,000 fixture and furniture models are constructed virtually at 4K-by-4K pixels—which dwarfs what we think of as high definition—and textures are scanned in from their analog source then mapped to a virtual counterpart at 1:1 scale (rather than some compressed size). The result? So much detail that you can actually see each thread of a sofa.

In essence, Ikea is creating digital furniture at the real-world scale. The IT Manager spearheading the project, Martin Enthed, credits modern ray-tracing technology—which allows you to paint a scene in realistic, easy-to-control light—as the most convincing piece of the illusion. It's easy to see. Ikea's catalog lighting ranges from crisp to ethereal.

Ikea has made the shift to a majority-CG catalog in just eight years, and it seems that a decent chunk of that 25% holdout consists of creative set pieces that aren't part of Ikea's stock, though even some of that has been going digital, too. The company credits a cross-discipline approach to the quick transition. In the early days of CG at Ikea, the CG artists learned studio photography, and the photographers on staff learned 3-D rendering software. A sensitivity to real-world conditions grounds what could be cold, lifeless computer-based imagery.

In case you ever thought the world inside an Ikea catalog was too pristine to be true, well, now you have your proof.

Read more here.

[All Images: © Inter IKEA Systems B.V.]

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  • Your article's title sounds like you're revealing a conspiracy! But no one points the good fact about the amount of pollution being avoided by not hauling a bunch of furniture from the company the photographer's studio back and forth! ... & ... even if 100% of the catalog is CG... who cares?? at the end of the day you drive to their store and will find all the pieces for real ! ;-)

  • Although you have a point in saying he's a narcissistic a-hole, it's also the site's duty to inform people properly. It's true most companies do it nowadays.

  • Antonin Ganner

    Lol, I'm guessing this article was written by an uninformed technophobe.. Most products are advertised with 3D models now, it's pretty standard, nothing unusual here.. hell even most stunt doubles in movies are 3D or random extra props, that could easily have been added for real, for the sake of changeability. It's how we do it now.. Photos are generally only used in advertising when someone's on a real tight budget.

    As for interviewing the IT Manager about how the CGI is done and reporting that Ray Tracing makes it easy to create realistic lighting, that's the funniest thing I heard all week :D First off, Ray Tracing is just the basic method for casting shadows from lights and basic refraction/reflection, and by no means looks realistic by itself.. and secondly, lighting is never made easy, you have to constantly test render and adapt material shaders, light settings, render settings etc., it's a really intensive process. Source - It's what I do for a living

  • Well a lot of the times Renders are cheaper than photo shoots when you're on a tight budget. As the article states shipping prototypes cross country to a set which has to be built then hiring photographers can add up a lot faster than CG. CG can be time consuming but a lot of times not as much of a headache as a actual photo shoot with a set and product. Source - I know this for a fact cause I do all of above. So cut the author a little slack as the article was written by someone who weren't as cheeky as you. :)

  • Miguel Menchu

    This isn't a research journal, it's a marketing channel. The point is inform the consumer. Ego needs can be fulfilled elsewhere.

  • Antonin Ganner

    "The IT Manager spearheading the project, Martin Enthed, credits modern ray-tracing technology--which allows you to paint a scene in realistic, easy-to-control light--as the most convincing piece of the illusion." - Lol

  • Anne-Maree Sargeant

    @michael architects use rendering to describe buildings that don't exist. Ikea on the other hand are advertising products currently available.

    The signpost more points to a shift in print & the obvious fall out within traditional creative an production rolls (and the rise and rise of the computer programer)…..