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It’s a Smaland after all

Why spend money on what is not bread, for sale
and your labour on what does not satisfy? This is exactly the sort of thing that threatens Judah, information pills
and indeed all sinful persons, here
with trouble. The Bible (Isaiah 5:52) recommends frugality and hard work. So does its nearest rival for the attention of the world, The IKEA catalogue.
We are all from SmÂland,” says the catalogue. This province of Sweden and home to IKEA is known for its “poor soil, thrifty attitude and hard working people.” Apparently, poor soil requires a thrifty kind of tilling. This is why IKEA furniture comes in flat-pack boxes. Sheesh. These Lutherans know how to work an agricultural metaphor as well as any prophet.

You might have read this sunny universalism. It just arrived at your house.
And everyone else’s, too. According to some estimates, the catalogue comes in behind the Harry Potter series and The Bible as the third most printed document in the world. In its 2009 catalogue, IKEA makes a bolder claim, “the catalogue has surpassed the Bible as the most published work”.
At 175 million annual copies worldwide, the document triples that of what IKEA humbly names its “counterpart”.
IKEA does, however, offer a qualification. “Since the catalogue is free of charge, the Bible continues to be the most purchased literary work.”

All those awaiting the Rapture might claim, of course, that nobody actually reads the Good Book of interiors. The wall of Billy Bookshelves behind you begs to differ. As does an act of mass hermeneutics this past weekend.
It seems that the Bible of Interior Spending has done what many consider to be the unthinkable. The catalogue changed its typeface.
Eschewing the Bauhaus chic of Futura for Microsoft designed screen font Verdana.
Long the chief servant of mass good taste, IKEA has been pilloried for its own bad design.

And it wasn’t just graphic designers who were aghast. Over the weekend, Twitter wouldn’t shut up “IKEA, Stop the Verdana madness” and “Words can’t describe my disgust” were among the tweets that drove the typeface to the No.1 trending topic. Heavens, it was as though IKEA had failed the same canonical litmus test of its “counterpart” the Good News Bible.
This is not the first time the masses have searched the Scriptures for inerrancy. IKEA (a carpenter, but not, it seems, just like Jesus (here and here) celebrated the devotion of its faithful in the 2009 catalogue. In 2006, the appearance of a dog with an abnormally large head was amplified online.

Terrified, perhaps, that they will not be able to cross the River Styx, the catalogue’s most ardent readers spot strange cats, esoteric books and Zen imagery.
That this may be the work of playful designers is not really relevant. The point is: in an age where interest in print dwindles than my patience for assembling Billy Bookshelf (seriously, the last one nearly ended my marriage) people actually read this thing. The major marketing tool of the corporation, the catalogue drives more than 300 million people to its stores annually. And there, they take the SmÂland communion.
More than 112 million IKEA meatballs are consumed.

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