Product Developer Brian Johnsson and the IKEA team at Piet Hein Eek's studio in Eindhoven.
Product Developer Brian Johnsson and the IKEA team at Piet Hein Eek's studio in Eindhoven.

INDUSTRIELL under the microscope

Colours, sizes, angles, volumes, packaging and logistics. There are lots to get through when a team from IKEA meets up with Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek for a product review. Together they will adjust and fine-tune INDUSTRIELL, a collection of items that are smart, functional and mass-produced – and equally imperfect, tactile and unique.

It’s far from the first time the IKEA trio get together with Piet Hein Eek. But now – after many months of development – the point of no return is drawing near. Yesterday the most recent prototypes were delivered from the factory and now it’s decision-making time (which includes killing a darling, or even a few).

“Today’s job is to finalise ideas and designs, but we also have to discuss what products we may need to take out”, says Karin Gustavsson, Creative Leader at IKEA, about the product review that’s just about to start.

Inspecting prototypes. Product Developing Engineer Carmen Stoicescu and Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek.
Inspecting prototypes. Product Developing Engineer Carmen Stoicescu and Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek.

The idea for INDUSTRIELL began to take shape when Karin and Piet were developing the JASSA collection. How can objects retain handmade quality while being mass-produced? The duo went to Marcus Engman, Design Manager at IKEA, to explain their vision.

It’s been a smooth collaboration. Piet has very strong opinions, but he also understands the way we work.

“It turned out that Marcus had thought about the same thing for ages – how to make objects feel more human and more personal while still having an industrial production process”, says Piet, who’s glad not only for being able to realise the idea but also for the deepened collaboration with IKEA. “When you work together, you invest in and learn from each other. It seems stupid not to make the best of all that by continuing to collaborate”, he says.

And now, at this intense meeting in his large studio on the outskirts of Eindhoven, it’s time to step up to the mark. Product Developer Brian Johnsson and Product Developing Engineer Carmen Stoicescu, who make up the additional two-thirds of the IKEA team present, get down to the nitty-gritty. The prototypes are scrutinised one after the other. Should the table come in one or two sizes? What colours work best for the chairs? Is Piet happy with the shapes of the vases?

Piet Hein Eek looking into details.
Piet Hein Eek looking into details.
Product Developer Brian Johnsson reviewing the unique products from the INDUSTRIELL collection.
Product Developer Brian Johnsson reviewing the unique products from the INDUSTRIELL collection.

“It’s essential that Piet approves of every product, and of every detail of every product”, says Karin who, just as the rest of the group, is happy with the development so far.

“It’s been a smooth collaboration. Piet has very strong opinions, but he also understands the way we work”, says Brian, who early in the process spent an important couple of days with Piet in Eindhoven “just to get into his head”.

A smooth collaboration is not the same as a collaboration without disagreement, which is proven not least by the lengthy debate regarding the shapes of the vases mentioned earlier. As a matter of fact, this ends up being one of very few unresolved issues when it’s time for the IKEA team to rush to the airport. If you ask Piet that’s perfectly fine “I wish we could have discussions about everything. That’s the most fun part of working together.”

The INDUSTRIELL collection is set to launch in April 2018. Check out the short film from the IKEA trip to Piet Hein Eek’s beautiful studio in Eindhoven.