Friday, February 2, 2018

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - DELAKTIG, you had me at 'HELLO'

Prelude - this is what 'Peak Furnishings' looks like according to Karol Kosnik -

[picture shows Studio Kosnik designed IKEA Section hack - modern, geometric design that is based on the SEKTION box; Forbattra panels which complete the look, highlighted in RED; and Karlby countertop that was cut down to create 'wood voids' in the design]

Chapter 1 - You had me at HELLO

Delaktig had at me at 'hello' - it was IKEA's answer to IKEA Hacking. The story, for me, first appeared in the IKEA Catalogue - 'get involved' was a call to action - and the word 'hacking' was mentioned as an inspiration [but just once! and in italics, as if it was an 'oddity'].  It was a collaborative effort is seems, Tom Dixon's students were involved in conceptualizing 'Delaktig' - which when you use the power of the machine - aka google - translates to 'involved' from Swedish. OK.....

But there was another reason to delaktig in the utopian vision - 'peak furnishings' - a term I first read about on one of those popular websites covering 'what's fresh and hot' in design, and coined, it seems, by IKEA themselves. Certainly a collaboration between a world famous designer and IKEA - world's leader in sustainable corporate philosophy - would be something to celebrate, but what? 

Do you know what 'peak furnishings' is? Is it when you have too much stuff inside your dwelling, that you find it challenging to store it properly, let alone organize it. Is 'peak furnishings' - when you start throwing away personal things that are still useful but old, to make room for new, shinier things? I mean, that is the definition of wasteful society. 

You know, it is kind if existentialist when a company says that it has designed a product, that will outlast it - the corporate entity. This is going to be the 'heirloom piece' for IKEA. Probably the first one, with more planned. DELAKTIG, made of aluminum - the cross section of the extrusion reveals channels which greatly add to its strength AND I saw a student proposal, because it is so modular, that it become 'infinity seating', and with its commercial potential, it could, say, replace Herman Miller* brands at the airports. This modular seating, according to IKEA's intentions, would be passed along, from generation to generation; a well cherished items gifted gracefully and received with excitement. A tall order for Ikea, I say. 

I googled 'heirloom furniture' because I wanted to see what does the totality of, I think, Western human experience sees as 'heirloom' pieces. And then when looking at hundreds of images I tried to identify common elements amongst them. As you can imagine, the form was all over the place - organic shapes; rigid geometric shapes; weird shapes; some very decorative and some very austere. I am a furniture designer and a maker, I have great curiosity for the process of fabrication, and I can say with certain degree of confidence that I know how they make furniture. And, surely enough, a very strong indicator was the amount of 'hand labour' that each piece received - sometimes simplest forms require large amount of labour. People like hand-made things. Of course 'hand-made' has been spun in so many different ways to make the sale, that it is almost sickening sometimes. Our attraction to 'hand-made', in my opinion, has made it 'cheaper' in some ways, because labour in developing countries is so much less expensive, so every single manufacturer wants to move overseas. So the origin of the 'heirloom' piece is also important.** 

Another thing is that I also make heirloom pieces. I take rough beams and surface and square them. I work with precious veneers and can do marquetry. I can execute fancy dovetail joints - even though I cannot make a living doing it. I can build challenging geometric forms that require complex interior structure that is often totally NOT seen and appreciated, but required nevertheless. I do metal inlays using 'red metals' - copper, brass, aluminum. AND I even LOVE steel. 

Of course I don't build a lot of them simply for the reason that you can get a lot more achieved via an IKEA Hack as opposed to one Kosnik heirloom - because they are of comparable costs.  

And another silly observation - I am not an elitist. It is of greatest satisfaction when I can deliver designer, superior quality solutions to average ordinary people via IKEA 'peak furnishings' products - on a budget. Because, if you think about it - there can only really be one Krenov, one Wendel Castle - I am often torn between my desire to be unique, one of a kind, original - and providing real life working solutions. Maybe I think about it too much...

I once desinged a chair, and I called it 'the Lightest Chair ever'. It dates back to my college years and my obsession with 'extremes'. I designed and built a chair, which I thought would be revolutionary. It was made of 1/4" top grade Baltic Birch plywood [so a hardwood plywood; many, many layers of AA veneers] - and it weight a mere 2lbs! AND! The SEAT WAS NOT STRUCTURAL - so what happens when you design chairs, often times, the seat plays an integral part of the structure of the chair - without it it would break, collapse, seize... AND so my chair, you could have grabbed the seat, take it off and put on a....say... a cutting board and IT WOULD STILL WORK. I had that chair dynamically tested [torture, I cringed!] to 300lbs, and it was fine. 

But it was NOT a successful chair. Do you know why? BECAUSE IT WAS TOO LIGHT! People were not comfortable using it! They feared that it would break, that it would not support their weight. My arguments - look at this, I am stress torturing it - did not work at all. As if a 'hive mind' was at work - the chair was NOT accepted. 

That experience was an eye-opener. It made me realize, that as much as INNOVATION and novelty is a key component of design, there is great inertia that resists all things new in FURNITURE. YES, maybe that chair would have been adopted by some 'design radicals'; YES, maybe that chair would have been welcomed by individuals who easily afford the financial hit of breaking/destroying a 'high value design object' and having it replaced on a whim - but that is not general rule - BECAUSE RULE NO.1 is SALES. I am always reminded of de Stijl, a design movement that I am still obsessed with today, that was so rigorous, so unwilling to bend to 'real life' that it self-extinguished. Yes!, I was greatly attracted to the arbitrary rules and regulations, completely inapplicable to real life of average citizen - BUT do I want to live [continue making and designing] OR do I want to die [stubbornly pursue my rigid and rigorous vision]? Do I make obscure pieces and die like Kafka? Or will I exert greater influence on the Furniture Design field if I pursue IKEA Hacks?

To be continued....

*NO! Nothing can replace Herman Miller at the airports, as long as architects design them!
**there is a great furniture store in Toronto called, 'the modern furniture knock-off store', and all they sell off-shored replicas of Eames, Scandinavian Modern, etc. 

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - DELAKTIG Dilemma PART 2


Friday, January 26, 2018

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - the DELAKTIG Dillema + Ingvar's Passing

Chapter 1 - Ingvar's Passing

Yea I was going to start posting about the DELAKTIG project - but something else happened this weeked. Ingavr Kamprad died - the Great Founder. He is credited with pioneering the concept of 'flat packing' - and thus revolutionizing Furniture Design - I fictionalized that moment here, on this blog, it's at the end of the entry. Wikipiedia - to whom I donate annually, just to perpetuate that liberal, open minded bias - lists him as a 'Swedish Business Magnate' - died peacefully - and no doubt in my mind 'extremely satisfied with what he has accomplished' in his life. 

I said that I will share controversial opinions about design, starting this Design Week that happened [my second Ikea Hacker Convention* - the Practical, Artsy + MoneyMaker]  - it is all about the sales. If anyone tries to convince you that they are doing it for the art OR design, then they are lying - well, rare art/design geniuses exist, but yea, very very rare. AND you know what Ingvar did? He sold. And he sold tons and tons - IKEA today is a leading home furnishing retailer in the world. Its line-up of boxes that real people need for living is unmatched - SEKTION, PAX, Billy and BESTA** - the essential core is manufactured most efficiently - I take advantage of his philosophy every single day! 

IKEA is also is an employment leader - with unmatched loyalty - in today's world with everyone being 'replaceable' - either by outsourcing or automation or AI'ed - IKEA provides stable, predictable, meaningful employment to thousands around the world - people feel connected. Anecdotal evidence will tell you that it is a company with a GIANT heart, where employees feel valued, and money is seen just for what it is - 'money'. Ingvar once gave away all profits from a single day of sales to his employees - all 40 000. There is leading research that suggests that happy, fulfilled people live longer lives - so I think just that metric will tell you something.

I read somewhere - BBC - that he was a billionaire - but I also heard reports that his personal wealth was in the vicinity of $115 million AND he drove an old Volvo 240! Noooo! So a man who makes or influences  'billion dollar decisions', has $114 sitting in a bank or so, DRIVES an old VOLVO!? You know what that is a sign of?  That is a sign of a man who is content with whom he is - AND I think it is a great feat to be such - content with oneself. It takes great wisdom and understanding of human existence to be content with oneself - there was no need to impress others. I have to say that I find his philosophy very inspiring - I too try for optimum solutions. 

If IKEA is any indication of his principles - then it is well positioned to be unstoppable. If a corporation is to successfully exist it must not be a predator that consumes itself - many corporations today are actively shortening their existence [meaning, huge losses and liabilities in the future - oh it's coming, no doubt, the question is just who will be the first one to recognize that? huh? New York state is already said to divest $5bn from fossil fuels and then sue them for environmental damage]. It was most curious when I read - part of my doing research into the DELAKTIG - that head of Sustainability at IKEA said that we've reached 'peak home furnishings' - IKEA's strong growth, in my opinion is an indication of just that phenomenon. If you think about it - the marketing of exclusivity is a game mostly played by the very rich, who have the disposable means to do it. I think, everyone in their life has a moment when they say 'fuck it' and you just stop caring and you buy the product that is most functional for you - the super awesome IKEA price is just a sweet, sweet bonus that IKEA long time recognized to be a great advantage and now pursues it full time. At this year's show I said that 'we are making too many things; and that there are too many designers competing for too little products to design.' Maybe a better option is to start 'designing our own lives, instead of leaving it in the hands of others to design?'. Worth thinking about it. 

Oh and don't sweat it - IKEA's boxes are well made, everyone makes their boxes the same way, and if you want to add some custom pieces to those boxes or you want to make it look like a million buck$ then you need to hire me. Oh, and you HAVE to LIKE IKEA - please don't start off by saying that you hate IKEA, but you like their low price and you want to make it look like a million buck$. So what is it? - YOU LIKE or NO?

*during my first IKEA Hackers Convention I gave away a luxe hack - from my KingK + QueenT collection - it was a table top from AS-IS, clad in very fancy Italian laminate from ABET, and new from IKEA, those black table legs, 'Fancy French' ones. When I asked the woman who won, 'Hey! But how are you going to take it home?' she was surprised, but immediately replied 'I will take off the legs and fit it in my car.' There! That is what I called an 'Ingvar moment'! People don't think about it anymore. 

** I think specifically, the existence of these furniture systems is a sign of 'peak furnishings' - these are optimum solutions - they work for 99% situations - IKEA's ability to satisfy that niche shows its leadership. I love SEKTION!

Monday, January 15, 2018

U [can] 2 official INVITE VIDEO + WILLIAM bookcase reveal!


Here is my official invite video - COME see U[can] 2 - we will learn together!

Chapter 1

Come see the William Bookase reveal [WITH pricing!] - see how affordable such projects are to the average DIY - this design can be scaled up - just imagine....a wall of FANCY looking bookcases - ON A BUDGET! 

[picture shows a picture of a hacked Billy bookcase decorated with fancy mouldings - it is called the William bookcase]

Hello Everyone who is interested in coming to PRACTICAL FRIDAY!

Practical Friday has 2 COMPONENTS:

A] 1PM - NEURODIVERSITY TALK  - Personal reflections on my professional practice - I will be speaking about the neurodiversity movement and how it will revolutionize access to workplaces for those who are NEURODIVERSE!

B] 3:30 PM - SEKTION / BESTA WORKSHOP - this is the workshop portion - I will put together a PDF document that you will be able to download and print - you can take notes right on it! Most convenient!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

U [can] 2 - Theoretical Thursday - Jan 18, 2017


First Tip: be efficient - create public web content while answering e-mails that matter. So you know that you have to put in the effort - it's either going higher up OR you care about this project. Might as well make it count - imagine writing for a larger audience - likely a similar client will call soon and you managed to pre-emptively answer their question - ADVANTAGE YOU. Strip all the personal details, take out the sensitive numbers - anonymize it. It is now ambiguous enough to apply to anyone, convincing enough because it was a personal response, AND when the Google AI crawlers will go over it, they will sense 'good quality human content' and give it a higher rating - those things do add up, it's a global audience now - I get tons of views from RUSSIA and DOWN UNDER!

Best to check out my INSTA account - it's a nice visual and brief description of ideas that I will be focusing on during my 2 day event. 

Chapter 1 - U [can] 2 - Theoretical Thursday, Jan 18; 3pm;

 'So I want to attend Theoretical Thursday - Karol, you got the place booked till 10pm, what's happening so late?'

I have already received couple of e-mail questions asking for a clarification - what am I doing on Thursday? What?!- Controversial design opinions? 

Firstly you will see cool furniture - IKEA Hacks - something meant to be replicated or scaled up, fancy stuff too! But I will have my own designs 2 - something that was meant to go into Sheridan50, Part B, which never happened because of the college faculty strike. 

BUT what an excellent question!

Theoretical Thursday [entire day; I only provided the 'talk' as an 'anchor point' for scheduling purposes, I don't really know how big this is going to get; I'm keeping the place open till 10pm] is meant to be an informal, non-structured discussion on how to succeed in the field of Design - be it as a designer, a designer-maker or a tradesperson who will work with designers - mostly what I would consider 'independent contractors'', 'small scale, butique design firms', 'niche markets' - as that seems to be the shift that is taking place in the demographic - employers often talk about 'flexibility'- 10 years ago my great marketing prof called it 'blue-ocean, red ocean theory'. 

I will share tips, techniques and methods that have helped me to reach the place where I am at now - I am very selective about my projects [don't cast your net too wide -  be wise with your available resources; pick projects that you know you will be most successful with; pursue your passions]; better wages [that's the trend....]; fulfilling my dream of an academic career - perhaps unorthodox, indirect route [yea! I'd love to go out there study full time - but I can't - job, family, bills; real life vs. 'insta life'; creating work that is shared, appreciated and has helped a very large number of people to achieve success on their own scale [that's part of the 'sharing economy'!]; being an arteest [spelling intentional] - I think my work has some artistic merit, but calling oneself 'an artist' is a very bold statement to make, not there yet [you guys will know that I scored that 'meellion dollar deal' when I start calling myself an 'artist']

I hope to draw students and recent grads in - academic world is very much the iGeneration - I am the star - but once you leave that bubble, it's harsh outside. That's why I think it will be important for them to identify their strengths early on - things they like doing, things that they can excel at, things they won't mind spending long and long hours on but it will not feel like work - and be paid good money for it. We are no longer an economy where a prepared 'portfolio of work' - which is often very self-centered - serves as a ticket to landing a great career [vs. a job; nothing wrong with having 'just a job']. I will talk about 'non-orthodox' opportunities - kind of like 'hacking for a job' - recognize great openings and take advantage!

This one is a BIGGIE - learn how to identify socio-economic trends which in turn will shape direction of your own design work; impact the structure of your design work AND make decisions that will steer your creative work towards greater success. Depending on the audience requests, I will get as large or as granular as they want. I read and study in great detail all sorts of retail, sales data for 'designer objects' - everything from cars, houses, clothing, even pop-culture and politics, what I call 'the commercial, consumable culture'- those are the 'tea-leaves' that I read. I personally have what I call a '10 year creative event horizon' - so for example I already know what show I will do next year; what show I will do in 3 years; and what creative stunt I will pull in 5 years. I will encourage people to develop their own 'creative event horizons' - maybe 10 years is long, but you sure got to have a 5-year plan!

And remember, Social Media is the Great Equalizer, and you should leverage it to your best advantage.

See you on Thursday, Jan 18?