5.5 pounds of plastic into children's furniture
The design duo Marianne and Knut Hagberg took on an exciting challenge. Make a fun product for children that uses a maximum of 5.5 pounds of plastic – which is also safe, has high quality and can be used for many years. The result was the playful UTTER children's furniture. This is how it happened.
Marianne and Knut Hagberg are extremely experienced designers, and at IKEA they’ve designed thousands of our products spanning four decades. The assignment which led to UTTER children's furniture was actually a bit special since it started in an unusual way. “The prerequisite was that we were to design something for children, but we were not allowed to use more than 5.5 pounds of plastic. The requirements also called for the product to be safe, to have high quality and be possible to use both indoors and outdoors for many years”, says Marianne. In other words, the assignment description was simple and clear. But the assignment itself was a little bit trickier. “Yes, there were many aspects that we had to take into account, especially since we also wanted to keep the price low and make the product easy to transport and assemble”, continues Knut.
Imagination and functionality
Design at IKEA involves teamwork, and an important step was getting help from our experts in plastics, construction, production, packaging, transportation – and children, of course. Marianne and Knut soon realized that they already had an idea that could be suitable, sketches which had laid around and matured for a few years and were now ready to be used. “Sometimes ideas just need a little time. In this case, one can say that reality caught up with our ideas about a series of colorful children's furniture which is stable, encourages children's eagerness to play, and, for adults, are easy to handle and care for. Imagination and functionality at the same time”, says Marianne. Like all of our children’s products, UTTER table and stool have undergone tough tests to ensure that they’re safe, no matter how creative and inventive children may get. The most important thing is that UTTER does not contain any BPA (Bisphenol A) or any other chemical substances that can be harmful to one's health. All parts are made of polypropylene plastic, a harmless plastic which is also used in food packaging – and it also means that the furniture is easy to wipe off and is not affected by the odd rain shower.
Easy to transport and assemble
Another important feature is that the construction is stable, despite the fact that we have minimized the amount of plastic, and they withstand the rather harsh treatment of wild and cheerful play which the products can be subjected to. To keep the price low, it was also important to find the most effective way to manufacture, package and transport UTTER. Among other things, we achieved this by adapting the furniture's design and packaging exactly to the size of our pallets, so that no space is left unused. It also means that the product becomes more manageable since we chose to wrap it in plastic, rather than putting it in a box. This also results in the added advantage that you can see the table and stool through the packaging, so that it's easier, for example, to combine different colors as you like. “We also wanted it to be really easy to assemble UTTER, without screws, hardware and tools. That's why we made a construction where each leg is threaded so that an adult can quickly and easily screw them on or off by hand. It's especially good if the children are eager to start playing”, says Knut.
Durable year after year
The simple assembly also has another advantage. Children grow, and when they've grown out of UTTER, the furniture can be taken apart and stored. Maybe stored with grandchildren in mind, or to be taken out when friends with children visit. “I think the best thing with UTTER is that we've managed to combine imagination and functionality into the same product. This is not a fad that quickly feels old, but durable furniture that children can play with year after year”, says Marianne.