Furniture companies like Systems Commercial Furniture are always trying to bring something new to the table, with new developments aimed at the market. Sometimes, that doesn’t always work.
Something that the furniture giant IKEA is very much aware. A Senior IKEA executive describes said product as an ‘amazing fiasco’ that the company would prefer to just forget. Sadly, it was a flop that the company made twice in its history, decades apart.
IKEA Global Design Head Marcus Engman, described this fail in Sydney earlier in September 2018. The product he refers to is the a.i.r. sofa, a disaster that Engman is intimately aware due in no small part to having been partly responsible for it.
He says that there were quite a few things they didn’t consider, which was clear with the a.i.r. sofa, which was too expensive, too easy to break, didn’t even work when it was put together, and just plain odd.
Engram, speaking at Sydney for IKEA’s Democratic Design Days, the company’s showcase. ‘Democratic design’ is IKEA’s umbrella term for the five core principles that guide its products;form, function, quality, sustainability and low prices.
Engram says that the a.i.r. sofa failed on all five principles. He describe it as one of those ‘eureka moments’ that people like it might’ve been the best idea ever. He thought that the inflatable sofa, would be a hit, sold flat then inflated at home, preferably from something like a hairdryer.
From there, problems sprang up. Turns out most people use their hairdryer on ‘hot’, which melted the plastic. Not only that, it only took days for air to leech, crumpling in front of owners. One of its key selling points, low weight, was actually an issue, as it felt like floating around the living room, and not in a good way.
Engman, however, is proud of the failure, considering it as something that the company learned from, considering it something any furniture company, like Systems Commercial Furniture, experiences; a learning failure. He says that, were the democratic design ethos had been implemented back then, the a.i.r. sofa would been a concept, nothing more.
He adds, saying that the sofa’s so odd, which is not something a furnisher wants in a product. Engram says that any new engineering should be poured into something people relate to, instead of something strange that people can’t really grasp.
IKEA’s best-selling product in Australia is something far more mundane and simple, as revealed by news.com.au; a simple, plain white plate.
Sold at 69 cents/pc, IKEA sells 1.4m Oftast dining plates to Aussies annually.