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Marcus Engman, Head of Design at Ikea - hlow
Marcus Engman Courtesy Sara Guedj

We had the incredible opportunity to meet Marcus Engman, the head of design at Ikea for the launch of its collection Ypperlig, a collaboration between the Swedish giant Ikea and the promising Danish editor Hay. Our first question was about the name of the collection. 

“Ypperlig” means “Excellency” in Swedish, so is that a way to produce new classics? A way to link Swedish and Danish design into a new generation of Scandinavian design?

For us in Sweden, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish design are very different, but for the rest of the world, we all seam to speak the same formal language, the differences do not seem that visible to you guys. But yes, Ypperlig was about finding a new language, especially in terms of colours and technical innovation.

Ypperlig Ikea Hay
Ypperlig Ikea Hay
Ypperlig Ikea Hay

Technical innovation?

Yes we are very pleased with this collection because we managed to bring great design innovations to affordable products. For instance, if you watch closely the Ypperlig chair, it has different thicknesses all over it. Usually plastic chairs are very homogeneous and made in the same thickness, because the way you make them is injecting liquid plastic into a hot mould and if your chair or any other plastic object doesn’t have the same thickness all over, the parts do not react the same way. Some parts can get burnt and some are not heated enough. So we had to reinvent moulds out of different parts, set to different temperatures, in order to deliver this very simple and fluid result.

Same with the shelves, it’s not noticeable at first. You can think that the process is very similar to the other shelves, like the Ivar for instance, but in order to get the simplicity of horizontal and vertical structures without any cross braces, we had to think the process throughout. It’s always the same, to get a simple result, you must conceive a complex process.

Ypperlig Ikea Hay
Ypperlig Ikea Hay
Ypperlig Ikea Hay

Brilliant! But what strikes me with Ypperlig is that you are quite bold, borrowing from the what I call “Arte Povera design”, such as the pieces of Hella Jongerius or the first pieces of Droog, when you add a simple climbing rope to the wall shelves of the collection, or when you mass-produce imperfect pottery like the Ypperlig vase.

Oh if you think this vase is bold, wait until you see all the new items we are preparing, we are going to have plenty of those!

But I simply cannot stop wondering, if Hay is what you like in design, this very efficient minimalist and trendy formal language, how can you deal with your own taste when your goal in life is to achieve some kind of a universal design?

If Ikea was about my taste, it would be like me, rather boring (he laughs). I find that the task of finding and creating beauty of all styles is much more interesting and stimulating.

Thanks a lot Marcus for this inspiring interview, I will try to remember its lesson: you can find beauty in any style (this is something I have always believed in, but have not quite yet been able to verbalise).

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