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The Story Behind IKEA

When you think of the IKEA brand you will see meatballs, self assembled furniture and a bright yellow logo. You might believe that they have always been this unashamedly bold, however there was a time when they were colourless and far less square.

Ikea building


Since IKEA founded in 1943 it has had a simplistic concept, but it wasn't until 1983 that they found their bright colour. Here is a history line of the IKEA logo from 1951. It is hard to imagine their current franchise covered in burgundy.

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They have always painted a beautiful picture of the brand's history. Not only have they published books to celebrate themselves, they have also opened a full IKEA museum in Sweden. At the museum there are exhibitions, a classic IKEA style restaurant and plenty of the necessary square room layouts.

IKEA Museum


The IKEA name itself might seem like it would translate into a witty Swedish word to describe a furniture shop, but its meaning is far closer to the heart of the founder.

IKEA Translated

Ingvar Kamprad, before being the founder of IKEA and billionaire, was raised on a small farm called Elmtaryd near the village of Agunnaryd. It is this personal history that helped him to decide on the company name.

The 'IK' in IKEA relates to the initials of his name, Ingvar Kamprad. The 'E' comes from the farm he grew up on, Elmtaryd and the 'A' is from the village Agunnaryd. Put it all together and you get the the world's largest furniture retailer.

Ingvar Kamprad was just 17 years young when he founded IKEA. It originally launched as a mail-order sales business, and opened it's first Möbel-IKÉA store in Älmhult, Småland, in 1958. Möbel means "furniture" in Swedish.


IKEA are consistent with a lot of their features. You will recognise their one-way layout in all stores which takes you through the furniture showrooms, to the 'as-is' area and ending at the cashiers. Despite this consistent branding, there are subtle differences depending on which country you are in.

You may be familiar with the "Bargain Corner" but this red discounted area changes name depending on local customs. In Sweden their "FYND" translates to "Bargains" and Denmark have an area called "Rodebutikken" which translates to "Rummage boutique". There are also changes to the products on sale and the design of the store.


Ingvar Kamprad is dyslexic and struggled with remembering product codes, so decided to 'name' all the items. The names tend to be Scandinavian in origin, one word (rarely two), and based on a naming system. For example chairs and desks are usually names after boy's names. BILLY, the bestselling bookcase is names after IKEA employee Billy Likjedhal.

The team of product namers use a database of Swedish words, which follows this key:

  • Upholstered furniture, coffee tables, rattan furniture, bookshelves, media storage, doorknobs: Swedish place names

  • Beds, wardrobes, hall furniture: Norwegian place names

  • Dining tables and chairs: Finnish place names

  • Bookcase ranges: Occupations

  • Bathroom articles: Scandinavian lakes, rivers and bays

  • Chairs, desks: boy's names

  • Fabrics, curtains: girl's names

  • Garden furniture: Scandinavian islands

  • Carpets: Danish place names

  • Lighting: terms from music, chemistry, meteorology, measures, weights, seasons, months, days, boats, nautical terms

  • Bedlinen, bed covers, pillows/cushions: flowers, plants, precious stones

  • Children's items: mammals, birds, adjectives

  • Curtain accessories: mathematical and geometrical terms

  • Kitchen utensils: foreign words, spices, herbs, fish, mushrooms, fruits or berries, functional descriptions

  • Boxes, wall decoration, pictures, frames, clocks: colloquial expressions, Swedish place names

But, just as you understand their madness, these rules are completely ignored. An example of this is the product SLADDA. This item is a bike and translates to mean "to skid". Some items are named using words which describe what the item does, like the BLANDA, which is a bowl and translates as "to mix".

IKEA recently decided to have a little fun with their product name and launched the tongue in cheek site; Using the most Googled searches in Sweden, they cleverly renamed their products on this alternative website.

See below the "She has forgotten me" product name for a noticeboard.

What is your view on IKEA's unique business setup? Does it make buying fun or do you find it all too much to take in?

MayInspire - Craft & Cocktail Blog

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Honest articles: This is NOT a sponsored post, in any way, shape or form.

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