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How To Design For Millennials, According To Ikea

Festival tents, anyone?

Two new collections are hitting Ikea’s shelves and online stores in February: the PS 2017 collection, a limited-edition series of stylish, adventurous pieces, and the Spridd line of housewares and accessories festooned with dizzying graphics. Both were “designed for free thinkers and today’s modern nomad,” according to Ikea’s website, which is your first clue that Ikea is pandering to millennials. While the Swedish brand never explicitly names this nebulous age group in its marketing materials, it’s not fooling anyone when it mentions “festival season.”

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For the PS 2017 collection, which Ikea first revealed last summer, the company took a technology- and fabrication-led approach. Before it let any of its designers start designing, the company took them through their factories so they could familiarize themselves with what was feasible from a manufacturing standpoint. This sped up development time since the products were created with the existing supply chain in mind from the start. Additionally, they experimented with new techniques, like 3D knitting (think Nike Flyknit tech applied to furniture) and how to reuse waste material as a means to lessen its environmental footprint.

Then the company used these techniques to develop products that read like millennial bait. Here’s what we imagine their millennial design playbook looks like.

1. Design for the Music Obsessed
British fashion designer Kit Neale, who has collaborated with Opening Ceremony, Coke, and Hallmark–masterminded the cacophonous, graphic patterns on the Spridd line, described the concept in Ikea’s press materials as “inspired by youth culture and by what it means to be young. Youth is a chaotic period for everyone, and maybe the most important. It sets us up for life.”

Spridd features pillows, beanbag chairs, bowls, thermoses, posters, rugs, and trays. Sounds like the typical product assortment you’d expect, except it also includes tents Ikea describes as “the perfect partner during festival season.” They’d probably get destroyed immediately at a festival, but they’d also make pretty nice play tents for kids.

2. Design for Communal Living
Apparently millennials are broke and rent is too damn high, so they’re resorting to communal living. But when 10 people cram into a loft and roommates start fighting over who breathes too loudly, Ikea’s got a room divider that’ll at least offer a modicum of privacy.

3. Design for the Impending Micro-Apartment Dystopia
A close cousin of the cramped loft is the cramped micro apartment, which real estate developers have been touting as another housing solution for cash-strapped millennials who can’t afford a true one-bedroom. Ikea’s current catalog tries to make this housing type more appealing through compact furniture, but it still looks pretty nightmarish. PS 2017 has a number of collapsible, space-saving pieces–like a coffee table, love seat, and arm chair–that try to solve the problem of not enough space.

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4. Design for Arrested Adolescence
When adulting becomes too damn hard, how about a reassuring, comfortable lounging blanket? It’s like a design-y snuggie. That isn’t a complaint.

5. Design for Portability
Millennials are always on the move. Playing into that theme, Ikea’s PS collection is also designed to be “nomadic.” A lamp by French designer Matali Crasset is powered by rechargeable batteries so it doesn’t need to be plugged in; a love seat splits into two corner chairs (a boon if a new apartment can’t accommodate it in sofa mode); and a 3D-knitted chair by Sarah Fager is lightweight, easy to transport, and has the comfort of a foam seat but without the bulk and environmental impact.

Come to think of it, designing for millennials seems pretty smart.

Find the PS 2017 and Spridd collections online and in stores in February.

[All Photos: via Ikea]

About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.

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