IKEA is one of the world’s most recognizable brands. Established by Ingvar Kamprad in the Swedish town of Älmhult in 1942, the company brought flat-packed furniture to the masses. It now operates over 400 stores in 49 countries, and last year its website clocked up over two billion visits.
A big part of IKEA’s success in communication is down to its use of imagery. Before a visit to one of the iconic big blue stores, customers thumb through the catalog to plan a kid’s bedroom. Or, they’ll turn to the website to see videos of sofa beds or cleverly-designed compact kitchens.
The importance of imagery to the IKEA experience has provided the company with a massive challenge, though. While, say, Apple releases a handful of new products every year, IKEA has a vast range of products – roughly 9,500, in fact. Take into consideration subtle design differences from country to country and you’ve got over 15,000 different looking things.
To organize this massive amount of imagery, IKEA has established an entire company: IKEA Communication AB (ICOM). As well as handling imagery and production of the catalog, it’s responsible for the website, product instructions – and even the stickers on the boxes.
The communications company, as well as umbrella corporation IKEA of Sweden, are still based in idyllic Älmhult. The building which houses is nondescript from the outside, but within it’s part photo studio (the biggest in Europe, apparently), part film set, and part design and visual effects house.
While a lot of IKEA’s imagery is photographed in the building’s cavernous sets, an increasing proportion is CGI, created using 3ds Max in conjunction with Chaos Group’s V-Ray for 3ds Max. The first project, a chair, was quietly integrated into IKEA’s 2005 catalog. The company hired Martin Enthed in 2007 to oversee its integration of CG imagery and produced its first fully-rendered room, a kitchen, in 2008.