This project engages with the representation of the family and is especially focussed on the representation of polyamory within media. This was a group effort with Veronica Novjac in which we focussed on how far you can go with the manipulation and image and text without changing ones marketing purposes. Where are the hidden features in a companies representations that one might not see if they are not looking through the right glasses?
This project lends you the sight of someone who participates in a polyamorous family structure and in so speculates on how IKEA represents any form of an extended family.
The polyamorous IKEA
IKEA, a museum and shopping adventure theme park. At the end of 2015 they operated in 43 countries, in addition to their 328 stores in 28 countries. IKEA is loved by many, who gladly follow the route through displayed model rooms. Founded in Sweden world’s largest furniture relate doesn’t only offer you an IKEA unique shopping experience, they also sell you their religion. Ikea is a company filled with tribalism and uses its icons such as the yellow and blue bags and the extremely large complexes as their trademarks. Presenting their product at their various levels of initiation. Their way of life that doesn’t only improves people’s household but also themselves. With the use of low-price-easy-to-assemble-yourself furniture and interesting publications and commercials. In this list, one specific publication stands out and that is their catalog, which as it printed edition reaches over 213 million households around the world and is translated into 32 languages. As an app version, the catalog has around 54 million visits a year. The catalog is their summary of products but also leads you the way how to use their interchangeable, multi-patterned, tailored products. In a way, the catalog facilitates as a guide but still leaves space for modular personalization. It has become such an important part of their concept that it gained a cult-like group of fans who rejoice at its annual issue. These numbers show a large group of people who find themselves in the identity that Ikea represents.
But how can IKEA be so successful in targeting, trendsetting and maintaining their relationship with their multi-diverse consumers? Has to do with their flexible approach and concept?
The whole concept of IKEA revolves around one theme ‘’The family’’. Relationships are their preoccupation as Stephen moss coined. The company doesn’t only attracts the basic hetero nuclear family but the gay and extended as well. This started with their campaign ”make a fresh start” back in 2006 and has evolved into a prominently featuring similar topics in their advertising all over the world. Creating a ground-breaking sport for the acceptance of different types of family situations. The peer endorsement of Ikea is found anywhere from the imagery of their catalog and store to the graphic details on things such as their elevators. Ikea spokeswoman Mona Liss said in 2006: “Home is the most important place in the world, it’s the place where we grow our families, however, we define family. That includes the people you choose to live with, and the friends and pets you choose to bring in.” IKEA systematically dismantles the nuclear family to date but still backs away when it comes to complex family situations avoiding their depiction in their publications and store even though these people are present. You could argue that they choose this approach as a protection for their marketing targets. Until 2014 when they started their ”life at home” report which features data about families from 8 world cities: Berlin, London, Moscow, Mumbai, New York, Paris, Shanghai, and Stockholm. The report shows data on how people live. Their first report was about a household morning ritual but more interesting, the last one was about (augmented) relationships. The language that IKEA uses in this report is also seen in their catalog. It’s a language that is easy interpreted as a part of your personal identity.
An example is this text from their 2016 life at home report:
”Mother, father, and children: this has long been our standard image of relationships at home, but the reality is very different. The number of single person households is growing rapidly all over the world and people are breaking free from the traditional family structures. These changes in how people build relationships in their homes are partly driven by urban challenges like small living spaces, lack of housing and expensive care for aging populations.
At the same time, we see a shift in values where individual needs and dreams become more important. And despite the fact that we live in big cities, we seem to long for intimacy, which has led us to invent many new types of families and households. This means that our homes need to change in order to suit new requirements. Instead of generic homes – designed for one type of family dynamic – will we perhaps see even more types of homes in the future?”
The text is combined with images of a nuclear family and one extended family of a husband, wife, two adult children and their grandmother. But reading the text as a complex family without looking at the imagery feels as the embracing of their relationship status and its accompanying lifestyle. The heads of the report are about online relations and how our home becomes less of a place for being together. They pinpoint towards this by using headed quotes such as ”The shift of platforms for our relationships is also affecting how we look at our homes. For example, our study shows that 23% think it’s more important to have good Wi-Fi than to have social spaces at home, in order to nurture relationships at home’’. Together with quotes such as ”48% say that they think home is the place where they have their most important relationships.” and Topic names such as ”The extended home”. You could then argue that IKEA is preparing for its next step towards the depiction of these families not only in their textual language but also in their visuals.