Sunday, September 7, 2008

Idea Ikea plus Pocoyo***

It was said of Tolkien that the world is divided into two kinds of people - those who have read Tolkien, and those who are going to. The world can also be divided into those who have been to IKEA and those who are going to. I am thinking of a cartoon by the Hilary Price, which appeared a couple of years back, in which a couple is talking 'Ikea-ese', with comments like "oh, lets get Inreda here, and maybe a Lekman there - and wouldn't Dremel look great over against the wall?" To those who have been to Ikea - and you can't go once without getting hooked for repeated visits - the humour in the usage of such exotic names to replace ordinary furniture terms is obvious. To the latter, the cartoon would have been just so much garbage or greek: take your pick. Which category do you belong to?

I like IKEA, with its slogan of affordable solutions for better living. If you haven't seen their products, check out their catalogue for 2009 for an idea of what they are about. The products are well designed, usually stylish and comfortable, and priced modestly compared to the competition. In their own words, "IKEA products are hard-wearing and easy to live with. They reflect and facilitate an easy, natural and unconstrained way of life. They express form, and are colourful and cheerful. And they appeal to the young at heart of all ages." But what I like most about them, even better than their socially and ecologically responsible manufacturing, is the fact that they are there at all. Let me see if I can explain.

IKEA is an idea, the idea that you don't need to buy the most expensive designer furniture and furnishings available to be able to assemble your own style, your own signature decor. Try wrapping your mind around this idea; trace it back, forwards and sideways; follow it up to see the magnitude of the network of sourcing, manufacturing plants and skilled labour, designing and material planning, shipping and selling required to get this idea off ground. To achieve affordability and style in the same product, to make it reasonably good looking and yet not too tacky from the cheaper building blocks used, to look at new ways of looking at the form and function of a common use product - these are probably simple exercises in school for most designers. And yet, it is difficult, as difficult as the Nano to produce, because it requires a vision of a different kind to make such dreams into ground reality. To understand people as well as materials to be able to coax what you want of them. To see how you may achieve the best possible combination of cheap sourcing, from which part of the globe and from how many sources, and efficient manufacturing, in which factory, using which tools, and which sort of artisans (including robots!); to be able to predict the trends in consumer likes and dislikes; to be, in short, a businessman. That is the achievement of IKEA, as one hopes it will be of the Nano, that it started from a simple idea, a dream, if you will, and made it possible, and in doing so, changed the world's perception about its products.

Did I say simple? Nay, the concept is simple, but the idea - well, that idea had to be huge to be able to accomplish all this. When Ingvar Kamprad had this idea of selling cheap but quality furniture in the late 1940s as a mail order company using a milk van to take his products to the railway station, did he envisage this international web of today? I think he did, I think he did. For there is no way you can grow like this if you are banking on chance alone. So, it is that IDEA which I like, that mind which saw and shaped it to reality, that complex thought process... Isn't it beautiful, the working of a mind like this?

Enough of blah blah blah then? Ok, today's site is Pocoyo's. You may be familiar with it from watching shows on the telly, but even if you are not, little ones will enjoy the simple games and the animations here (under cinema). There are two games right now, but earlier they had three different ones, so maybe they keep changing the games. Last I checked, which was a while back, there were three animations, and all take a while to load up on a low speed connection. Once loaded though, they will run smoothly unless a long time has elapsed or you have had your computer hibernate in the meanwhile. Nice bright colours and cute ideas for the animations, not to mention the basic concept of Pocoyo learning by exploring his environment. Fun for toddlers, but infants are also attracted to the animal characters.

The url - Choose your country and it will open a pop up full screen window. If you go to the blog, you will be able to download the midi for opening theme music in the April 21st 2007 entry and use it for your mobile ringtone.

Pocoyo is the trademark of Zinkia Entertainment who also own the site; others which appear on the site, and therefore may be co-producers are c-ITV and Granada media.

P.S. Yes, I know, there have been more, much more stupendous ideas in the world, many many more. Ideas which changed the world much more substantially than IKEA. But I just happened to come across this cute blog called Ikea Hacker which sparked off this chain of thought, and also, it seems a lot easier to comprehend this than the awesome discoveries of the nano world (pun unintended!). Check this blog to see how people personalize their Ikea products.

P.P.S. Also, while searching for some information about Ikea, I found this article on CNET about the design process of Ikea. It is too long to be quoted, so follow the link :) for a little more insight into how they design their products. And here is another one about the visual design of Ikea billboards, and its relevance to your power point slides. Not related, but interesting anyway.

P.P.P.S. (Too many today, no? But just couldn't resist adding this one.) Here is Hilary's cartoon today from her website If it is not appearing in your paper, you can subscribe to it there. Appears a couple of weeks later than on the papers, but that is just fine. Her humour is truly unique, much like the word orange with which nothing rhymes. I used to follow it regularly, but find that it is even more fun to let it slide and then check a week or month's posts together. There will be a few times when you don't agree with her, but then who do you agree with all the time save yourself?

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