Current projects: I'm working with long-term home-furnishing priorities, in terms of how people live their everyday lives—their needs and their frustrations and the opportunities and so on. That's a quite big project that goes on all the time, but it needs to be updated and we need to have a product range for it and we need to make sure that the people developing and designing IKEA concepts really, truly understand the latest trends in society, so that we can cater toward them in a good way.
I'm also working quite a lot on some questions around the meeting with the customers in our stores. We want to create a much more vital interaction; we feel that we have been a little bit slow on the uptake with our showrooms and the impression of home-furnishing—that IKEA is a creative company and that we are in tune with society and trends and all that.
Mission: To create a better everyday life for the many people
When did you decide to pursue a career in design? Well, I'm not working with product design specifically—I'm working with, in a sense, designing the concept of home furnishing. And I've always been very interested in this. I started in the retail sector and one thing sort of led to another.
Education: I would say life and experience is my main education. Other than that, I went to Swedish primary and high school and took a couple of courses at art and design school. But no university; I have gone to IKEA university.
First design job: To design the bedroom department of a store in Stockholm
Who is your design hero? There are many. Estrid Ericson and Josef Frank are, of course, two of my favorites. I also admire some of the Danish and Finnish designers like Arne Jacobsen and Alvar Aalto. Among contemporary designers, I like Paola Navone and Ilse Crawford. There are a lot of women in my favorites, and I think that we sometimes have too few women in design. I could name many, many more.
Describe your workspace: That's a tricky issue; we have such a terrible office at the moment. We have a saying in Swedish, "The shoemaker's children have broken shoes." Not that we don't want to have good design for ourselves, but we have an enormous agenda to do all the things that we're doing. So we live a quite simple life when it comes to the office space.
Other than the computer, what is your most important tool? The computer I could live without, but my phone I cannot live without.
What is the best part of your job? That I can identify myself with the products that I'm working with. I can always go back to my life and have a personal relationship with everything that we do. It's not abstract; it's very basic and easy to understand in that way.
What is the worst part of your job? It might be the location of our office. Älmhult is not always the most convenient place to work; it's quite a long commute and it's not close to an airport. On the other hand, it's very beautifully situated, so it's not that bad.
Other new products from IKEA include the Busunge line of children's bedroom furniture (above) and the Nordli chest of drawers (below).
What time do you get up and go to bed? I get up at 6:00 a.m. I should go to bed at 11:00 p.m., but usually it's 11:30.
How do you procrastinate? I take a short walk or look at a magazine or at Instagram.
What is your favorite productivity tip or trick? To listen
What is the most important quality in a designer? Humility. And being truly passionate about people. Of course the aesthetic skills and communication skills are important. But I think that you have to start with having a passion for people; otherwise, good design won't appear.
What is the most widespread misunderstanding about design or designers? That we copy—that designers copy everybody. Human nature is to copy and to imitate. I think that there is a strange approach around this, that just because you have designed something, you own it. I often question this with copyright, even though I understand it's important and necessary sometimes. It is a big misunderstanding. I think that it's good that people copy, because that means that they like something and that it's good.
Above and below: Two photos from IKEA's recent "Life at Home" report, part of a massive global study to see how people actually live in their own homes.
What is your most prized design possession? Some of my art, and definitely a few IKEA things that I have
What is exciting you in design right now? Just this big creative moment that's happening right now, with people having an urge to work with their hands and be more creative and personalize things. People are more aware of what they consume, and are thinking of how to reuse things and alter things. It's quite fascinating for us, and challenging for us as well.
If you could redesign anything, what would you choose? The refrigerator. I think it's completely wrongly designed in terms of where the cold stuff and not-so-cold stuff should be. The warmest part is the door, but that's where you're supposed to put your milk, which is completely wrong. Actually, it's true with stoves and dishwashers too—these highly used everyday things, even today the usability is not on a high level.
What do you hope to be doing in ten years? I hope that I'm still in a creative environment and that I can work creatively and share my ideas.
Lastly, who's more fun to have a drink with: architects, industrial designers or graphic designers? Definitely graphic designers. Or maybe industrial designers. Not architects—I've met too many boring architects.
Mason Currey is a former Core77 editor and the author of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. Previously, he was the executive editor of Print and the managing editor of Metropolis. His freelance writing has appeared in the New York Times and Slate, among other publications. He lives in Los Angeles.