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Hagberg + Hagberg

31 May 2021 – 9 January 2022

Excellent design, smart function and sustainable quality, at a low price. Few can manage that equation better than Knut Hagberg and Marianne Hagberg. Together they have designed more than 2,100 products for IKEA, making them probably two of the most well-represented designers in Swedish design history. After all, who hasn’t at one time or another used BOLMEN in the toilet, had a FÖRSIKTIG (PATRULL) in the bathroom, organised their papers with DOKUMENT or taken an UPPTÄCKA on a trip? Now you can see all the icons, the drawings behind them and all kinds of unique objects here at IKEA Museum in Älmhult.

New perspectives on Democratic Design? Listen to what Knut Hagberg and Marianne Hagberg themselves say about working with the same company, IKEA, for their entire design careers.

Knut Hagberg. Marianne Hagberg.

To most people, two of Sweden’s – and probably the world’s – most well-represented designers are relatively unknown. Design siblings Knut Hagberg and Marianne Hagberg are both a part of the soul of IKEA, and represent a significant proportion of the company’s design profile. As they now put down their pencils, they can look back on a successful 41-year career at IKEA. Over four decades they have created all kinds of products that have become beloved by the many people, and awarded by experts. We are celebrating this at IKEA Museum with a retrospective exhibition called Hagberg + Hagberg.

Ageing man and woman dressed in black and white, Knut Hagberg and Marianne Hagberg, carrying simple wooden table together.

Together – a key concept

Over the years that Knut and Marianne have spent designing together for IKEA, they have seen CEOs, design managers and trends come and go. So what’s at the core of their partnership? Togetherness and honesty. All of their products have been the result of teamwork. Knut and Marianne together with the model workshop, Knut and Marianne together with other IKEA employees, and Knut and Marianne together with suppliers. Many of their ideas were born on the factory floor, where they could see exactly what was feasible. The discussions at the factories were always inspiring, and they were always meticulous and stubborn. They followed each product from the first drawings, to the supplier, and all the way into the stores. The brother and sister have always been brutally honest with each other: “We were born to go against the grain. Stubborn as mules. We love arguing long and hard about details and technical design. We fight and laugh our way forward, and have had the best job in the world!” say Knut and Marianne.

Close-up of man and woman, Knut and Marianne Hagberg, working at a drawing table, in greying hair and dark clothing.

Drawing by hand

Research shows that you learn more effectively if you write by hand rather than using a computer. So the same is probably true of sketching. And this is exactly what Knut Hagberg and Marianne Hagberg have done for all of their 41 years at IKEA – sketched and drawn by hand. All of their products started on the drawing table, and they have worked so closely together that sometimes they couldn’t even see who did what on a drawing. Knut Hagberg: “Nothing can replace the link between eye, mind and paper. We always sketch in 1:1 scale, and when we’re done we go over to the model workshop and make a first prototype – together.”  Perhaps the best bit for them has been putting down a fresh sheet of blank paper on the drawing board and seeing all the possibilities. We have now brought many of their great hand-drawn sketches together for the exhibition, so don’t miss them.

Man and woman, Knut and Marianne Hagberg, standing at a drawing table in exhibition space, pointing and discussing.
The Hagbergs always did their drawing by hand – and this means there is now an extensive archive of all their work. Some of the drawings are on display in the exhibition.

Products for the many people

Knut and Marianne were happier to see one of their designs sell in hundreds of thousands rather than just a few. As they themselves say: “In all the years we’ve worked at IKEA, everyday life and the family have always been important sources of inspiration. We made all our new discoveries by looking at how people live in the everyday. Making something attractive and beautiful and reasonably priced out of the little everyday products is just so much fun!”

Exhibition hall where objects are displayed in glass cabinets on white cubes, and images are projected onto walls.
“Whether it’s a toilet brush for one euro or a bookcase for hundreds, the work is just as important.” Knut Hagberg

Democratic Design

Few designers have contributed so much to the IKEA idea of Democratic Design as Knut and Marianne. The vision behind IKEA is “to create a better everyday life for the many people”, and Democratic Design is ultimately how this can be achieved. IKEA has five Democratic Design dimensions: Form, Function, Quality, Sustainability and Low Price. These dimensions have been natural parts of the Habgergs’ design DNA. They saw the boundaries as challenges. How much good form, function and sustainable quality could they fit into a low price? A challenge that always spurred them on.

Two desks and a chair in blond wood displayed on a low podium in front of a beige wall with a big close-up image of a wedge dowel.
The secret behind BJÖRKSNÄS is a classic IKEA challenge: increase the value, but cut the costs. The result? A Swedish furniture classic.
Colourful children's furniture exhibited on a low white podium against a beige wall with white information text and photographs.
Of all their favourite products, this is the design siblings’ own personal extra-favourite. PUZZEL children’s furniture has become a “creative playmate” for children around the world.
Black glass cabinet, rattan chair and other furnishings displayed on a podium against a beige wall with a close-up of a wedge dowel.
If you’ve designed more than 2,100 products it’s hard to choose favourites, but the TALUS rattan chair is one of this rare breed.
Exhibition hall with objects displayed in glass cabinets, and on a low podium against a beige wall with white information text.