Their inventory covers 12,000 products that cover just about every part of a home, from furniture to kitchen accessories, soft furnishings to lighting. If you’re lucky, the IKEA closest to you might even have a grocery that sells Swedish products. And they all share one trait: close to unpronounceable names which, if we try hard enough, could prove to be a crash course in Swedish — if we could master the language, that is.
Turns out, IKEA does have a method for naming its products, and it’s not as random as we might think. During a 2017 product showcase held in New York, designer Jon Karlsson said the company actually has a team of product namers who christen products with words selected from a Swedish database (via Quartz). But these names aren’t random, they have categories, and the system was devised by IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad, who had dyslexia and couldn’t remember the order of numbers which came with the item codes (via Sticky Branding).
IKEA has a product-naming system in place
Sticky Branding features a list of IKEA’s different product categories and their naming protocols. Outdoor furniture, for instance, is named after Scandinavian Islands. Rugs are named after Danish towns. Linens are named after flowers and plants. Beds are named after areas in Norway. Bookcases, desks, and chairs have Scandinavian boys’ names, while fabrics and curtains have Scandinavian girls’ names. Kitchen accessories carry the names of fish, as well as types of mushrooms, and adjectives. And children’s products are named after mammals, birds, and adjectives (though we’re guessing these adjectives are vastly different from the ones used to name kitchen accessories). One man, Lars Petrus, actually made the effort to compile and organize as many of IKEA’s product names as he could into a database.
IKEA breaks its own naming rules from time to time
But don’t think that IKEA is absolutely married to its naming system. The company happy to break its own rules, like the time it named its bookcases “BILLY” after Billy Liljedahl, one of the company’s advertising managers, who told a designer that he just wanted “a proper bookcase just for books.” BILLY remains one of IKEA’s most iconic designs (via CBC).
And in case you’re wondering whether the company’s name reflects the company’s product naming protocol, you could say it does. IKEA an acronym for Ingvar, Kamprad (the founder’s name), Elmtaryd (his family’s farm), and Agunnaryd (the village he grew up in), and IKEA is pronounced “Eee-KEH-Yah” (via Quartz).
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