What role does the sofa play in your home?

Is the sofa your refuge after a long day at work, where the whole family watches movies together, or a place for friends to crash on? This week we will have a summer sit-down with Kevin, Karin and Damien to talk about designing the heart of a home — the sofa!

Kevin: “The sofas will be tested in multiple rounds”

Who is Kevin?

“Before joining IKEA, I worked with motorcycle components and fashion. I heard from friends about the many opportunities at IKEA, and in 2011 I joined as a Product Design Engineer. Currently, I am focusing on seating, and engineering solutions to create even safer sofas for our customers.”

What role does the sofa play in your home?

“We have a NOCKEBY sofa, and it is definitely a core part of our home. We spend most of our time at home in it, reading, working, gaming, watching movies and napping sometimes. Not only my wife and I, but our cats also like it.”

How does one develop a “safe” sofa?

“IKEA always puts customers safety first, and we have a very strict working process to make sure all sofas we deliver to customers are safe. When starting work on a new sofa, we collect customer feedback on similar IKEA products. We do many, many tests throughout the development process.”

What kind of tests do you do?

“When we have design sketches and samples, we invite a lot of people who might not be engineers, to act as customers so we can anticipate safety risks. Product safety tests with physical samples are very important before we set down all the product documentation.”

“We send all our prototypes for testing before we deliver to customers. The sofas will be tested in multiple rounds, testing the mechanics, flammability, package and assembly for example. We also do home tests, and we even continue testing after our products have reached the customers.”

What do you enjoy the most developing sofas?

“As an engineer, you sometimes spend a lot of time to solve something, which might seem very small for a lot of people, but we insist on pushing ourselves to achieve even better solutions. One example is a lock component for the back of a chair or a sofa. When we read customer feedback and see that these small features make their life slightly better — all the hard work paid well off.”

Karin: “The pillow my mother embroidered has a very special place on my sofa.”

Who is Karin?

 “I’m Swedish and I live with my boyfriend in Malmö, Sweden. I started as an interior designer in a fabric and furniture shop in Norway. In 2001, I joined IKEA and I have had many different positions within the field of interior design. Today I work as a Product Design Developer for living room storage.”

What role does the sofa play in your home?

“Some days after work this is where I lay down, take a deep breath and relax. I have even placed the sofa so that I can see the park outside. I have a pillow that my mother embroidered for me, made with a traditional technique from the south part of Sweden. The pillow has, of course, a very special place on my sofa.”

What brought you to product design developing?

As a child, as soon as the IKEA-catalogue came in the mail, I brought it to my room and started cutting out pictures and created ginormous collages. Maybe not as fun for the rest of the family when they wanted to look in the catalogue after I had done ‘my work’. I guess the interest in room settings started early and it is still a passion, making sure that the products work well together in a room, both functionally and visually.”

How do you work with the whole living room?

“For me, it is not just about one product, it is about finding solutions for common home-furnishing dilemmas that people have. I need to make sure that the bookshelf we develop works well with the sofa and the sofa table. I also need to make sure that we pick the right colour or wood look to make it fit into the rest of the range. If we have that in mind while developing, the interior designers can present functional and beautiful solutions in the stores and in the catalogue.”

How do you know what works together?

“For me, it is very important to look at the whole living room. I look at our customers living situation to understand their needs and make sure we have products that solve those needs. Then I look at colours, materials and style to make it all look and function well together. For example, you don’t want a heavy sofa table in front of a sofa-bed that you need open and close every day. Or, if you place a low side table beside a sofa with high armrests, I can tell you that there will be a lot of spilled coffee cups.

Damien: “We know that a sofa is a big expense for most families, and they expect that the sofa will last for a long time.”

Who is Damien?

 “I am French, and I live with my girlfriend and son in Malmö, Sweden. I have an industrial design background both in France and China. Studying design, I always was curious by the IKEA Democratic Design approach and how affordable design can enhance everyone’s life. Two and a half years ago, I joined as a Product Design Developer. My role is to analyze and be inspired by how people live and to create the right product or solution that answers their needs.”

What role does the sofa play in your home?

“Our living room is quite minimalistic. We’ve decided to put as little furniture as we could to make it really flexible and easy to transition from one activity to another. Our sofa is the centerpiece and sets the tone. This is where we watch TV, host parties, nap. The sofa is also where we play and read stories with our son. There is only one rule: no jumping on the sofa!”

Conceptually, where do you start when developing a sofa?

“It always starts with a consumer need. As a product developer, I have a holistic and customer-centric approach. I always consider the entire user experience, from the store until the end of product life with, of course, special attention on comfort and outlook.”

“The most exciting part of my job is being on the factory floor and developing products with our supplier. This is where a good idea becomes a great product. Factory floor development is our DNA, and as we can’t travel right now due to the coronavirus outbreak, we have to use digital solutions and collaborative tools to keep developing great products together with our suppliers.”

You are working with a new sofa platform. Why a new platform? 

 “We know that a sofa is a big expense for most families, and they expect that the sofa will last for a long time. Sustainability together with quality and affordability is, more than ever, a priority for our customers, but also for IKEA.”

“People’s living situations change a lot and consequently they need products that can move with them. This is why we are currently developing a new wonderful platform that will enable our customer to easily bring their sofa with them, and securing a more durable and sustainable sofa and still really affordable. 

“This new platform uses fewer materials than a traditional sofa construction but are extremely sturdy and long-lasting. It comes in an extra small and lightweight packaging that makes it easy to carry home. We have simplified how to assemble, disassemble and then reassemble it again. All you need is one Allen key (which is provided!). And having an easily removable cover will allow our customer to clean, maintain and keep their sofa for a long time.” 

“We are currently developing four new sofa families that will use this new platform, and VINLIDEN is the first. It is a generous and comfortable high back sofa to sink into and will be launched globally this autumn.”