Product: Beazley Designs of the Year

Q&A – IKEA ThisABles

To mark this year’s Beazley Designs of the Year, the Design Museum caught up with IKEA, Milbat, Access Israel and McCann Tel Aviv, Israel, about their latest project - a hack to make IKEA furniture more accessible.


Q: What is the guiding principle behind IKEA ThisABles? How does it fit into IKEA’s vision to “Create a Better Every day”?

A: 10% of the world’s population has a serious disability which prevents them from using regular furniture and they need to buy special, crude and expensive products. We want everybody in the world to be able to enjoy the affordable and designed products in IKEA by developing small add-ons that can make the best-selling IKEA products more accessible.

Q: How did the project come about between IKEA Israel and non-profits Milbat and Access Israel?

A: The original idea was developed in McCann TLV, The advertising agency of IKEA Israel, by a copywriter who has cerebral palsy. As the idea grew, we needed partners who specialise in accessibility and product design and we found Milbat and Access Israel as great partners.

Q: How easy and affordable is it for people to download and 3D print these items from home?

A: Anyone can download the add-ons 3D models form the website, free of charge, and print it in a 3D printer. If you do not own a printer, you can contact local companies specialised in 3D printing.

Q: Did you experience any obstacles whilst working on ThisABles?

A: We knew from the beginning that this project is challenging and experimental, but one that can make a real difference in the lives of so many people. There were quite a few challenges along the way, some technical and some legal, that made it very tempting to simply give up. Fortunately, we had an amazing group of people who pushed themselves everyday and believed that despite all the obstacles this idea can become reality.

A: How have your disabled audience been involved in the design process? You held a hackathon in one of your Tel Aviv stores, what did you learn from this event?

A: First and foremost, the idea was conceived by McCann TLV's copywriter, Eldar Yusupov, who deals with disabilities due to his cerebral palsy disorder. Together with Yusupov, product engineers and disabled people, we visited the Ikea store and held a Hackaton to understand disabled people's needs better. We heard about the main challenges that they face at home and together we found the right solutions that will make the beloved and affordable IKEA furniture suitable for different kind of disabilities. That process is still happening, on the project's website we are inviting everyone to suggest a solution or tell us about a problem that we have not yet thought of.

Q: Often modified furniture and products can be clinical, how did you manage to ensure IKEA’s bright and cheerful style was retained, whilst also keeping the add-ons practical?

A: That was one of our biggest challenges and the motivation for this project. Instead of buying custom made furniture, which are usually very expensive and awkward looking, we developed small and sleek hacks that make the cheerful and elegant IKEA designs accessible for everyone.

Q: You have taken steps to make the whole customer journey accessible from website to store, can you tell us a little bit more about this?

It was important for us to create maximum access in every aspect of the project, from the designated site that we constructed for the project, that was adapted for people with disabilities, to the products themselves, which can be downloaded free of charge and printed independently in a 3D printer based on models that we have made available to the general public.

Q: What’s the one thing you’d like people to remember about your project when they leave the Beazley Designs of the Year exhibition?

It's important that people remember that brands can do good and can create a positive impact on our society. It is better to be bold, think big and try what has never been done before. It is also quite cool to get recognition for your achievement as we did with 11 lions at the Cannes Lions 2019 and the nomination for this award.

Related exhibition

Beazley Designs of the Year 2019

Discover the most innovative designs across fashion, architecture, digital, transport, product and graphic design from the past 12 months, as nominated by design experts from around the world.