Let’s begin with the definition of a logo: Ais a graphic element that forms part of a brand’s visual identity. A brand or trademark usually also includes perceptions of and attitudes towards the company, which is to say what it stands for. And then there’s the IKEA wordmark. This is when IKEA is used without the logotype’s oval and frame, such as on store fronts and flags. Anyone with a more advanced sense for typography will notice that there’s a slight difference between the logo and the wordmark.
History of the logotype
The small steps of evolution.
IKEA today is one of the best-known brands in the world, and its hallmark is the characteristic blue and yellow logotype. But the logo (or logotype, or insignia, or emblem) hasn’t always looked like this. Because just like IKEA and its business, the logo has constantly been developing. Here we look at the logo’s evolution from 1943 to 2018, when the latest changes were made. So get your magnifying glass out, and join us for the story of the IKEA logo, from letterhead to head of everything!
A time of experimentation
The evolution and history of the logo essentially follow the varied development of the company and its business. Ingvar Kamprad first registered a company, Handelsfirman IKEA, in July 1943. The business was based on traditional rural peddling, and the role of the emblem was to certify that the company could be trusted.
After cycling around with product samples and selling directly to clients, Ingvar saw a definite upswing with his mail order business, partly thanks to his revolutionary ideas on distribution. This was reflected in the logo. An accent appeared on the É, and the emblem got the addition “Agunnaryd” and the railway address Liatorp. This suggests a certain expansion.
The accent was apparently inspired by the name of French pen manufacturer La Société Evergood, for whom Ingvar Kamprad was now the general agent. This was possibly also why ‘import-export’ was added to the word that now looked increasingly like a graphic logotype, with IKEA written in italics, in lower case and with the accent. The fact that IKEA was written like this is probably one reason why, from the beginning, people said IKEA as a single word rather than four separate letters.
The IKEA we recognise today really got started as early as 1948. By now Ingvar was selling furniture by mail order, so the word ‘Möbelfirman’ (furniture company) was added to the logo. The logo, like the range, varied for a few years, but the components were roughly the same. Occasionally two different logos could be seen at the same time, one in upper case (capitals) and one in lower case (small letters). Sometimes there were new side businesses like ‘Förlag’ (publishing), and new words were added around ikéa. A logo with the words: Möbelfirman IKEA, Agunnaryd ended the epoch during which the logo essentially only appeared on compliment slips, letterheads, bills and address labels, as well as the first printed material. And the amount of printed material quickly increased.
Between 1948 and 1952, ikéa-nytt was published, an ordering catalogue and the predecessor to what would later become the annual IKEA catalogue. The logo remained unchanged during these four years, in italics and lower case.
One thing that all the logos of this time, and for many years after, had in common, was that they were drawn by hand. Correspondence between IKEA and Sandströms design and print agency in Sundsvall has been preserved, from 1951. They did the first hand-drawn sketches of what would become the new IKEA logo. It contained a cloud and the company name in upper case, along with Möbler (furniture) and Bosättning (setting up a home), and possibly indicated that the company wanted to look more well-established. A year later, Ingvar Kamprad bought a joinery in Älmhult.
The word-group ‘Kvalitetsgaranti’ (quality guarantee) together with IKEA first appeared in 1951, in connection with the first home furnishing catalogue. The seal of quality was short-lived, disappearing a year later, never to be seen again. But the guarantee promise itself came to be a central aspect of IKEA and its brand-building.
In 1952, legendary head of advertising Gillis Lundgren redesigned the Sandström version, producing the embryo of the logo we know today. By this time the company was selling furniture in hardwood, a quality hallmark that was transferred to the colour of the logo. The word-group was now positioned diagonally and written in upper case only.
Occasionally, Möbel-IKEA formed a new word-group, often with an added ÄLMHULT, where the newly acquired joinery had been converted into a showroom – and this in itself was a modern development. The capitals were now here to stay. When the first store was built in 1958 in Älmhult (today the home of the IKEA Museum), one new development was a stylised picture of the building alongside different versions of the logo.
A professional production designer called Gillis Nilsson was now appointed to strip back and standardise the logo. The accent above the E was removed in 1962 and the logo’s font was redesigned, again by hand, to even more recognisable forms. The diagonal became horizontal, IKEA was put inside an oval and supplemented by various versions of ‘Möbel’ and ‘Älmhult’. The logo became black and white, and was framed by a rectangle.
IKEA was expanding, and when the store in Kungens Kurva opened in 1965, the words MÖBEL, IKEA and ÄLMHULT appeared beneath the emblem, which was now virtually the same as today’s logo. The original was made with ink and brush, of course, and the letters in IKEA were drawn with an in-house typeface based on an extra-bold Futura.
1970s to 1980s
IKEA grew strongly in Scandinavia, and a few years into the 1970s, the first store on the European Continent opened in Switzerland. Now, the words MÖBEL and ÄLMHULT also disappeared. The new international name IKEA stood alone in the logo, for example on the 1977 catalogue, where the wordmark appeared by itself for the first time, like a newspaper nameplate. More markets were added in the 1970s, and the turbulence of dramatic expansion also led to some graphical deviations. In Germany, for instance, the logo appeared with an exotic Swedish elk. In Austria they even stood a statue of an elk outside the store, while in Japan and Canada they used a stylised Viking. In Denmark, which did everything it could not to be associated with Sweden, they instead used a cheerful teddy bear to complement the logo.
The first manual
Due to the widespread graphical degradation, a necessary change process was eventually introduced in the 1980s. By now, the black and white IKEA logo had also been both red and white, and blue and yellow, with the addition of various characters. 1984 saw the first real visual profile manual, which clearly outlined the use of IKEA as a ‘trademark’ and IKEA as a ‘wordmark’. Also around this time, the trademark was registered (®), giving it official copyright protection for the first time.
The small Småland furniture company IKEA was becoming increasingly global, and its catalogue would soon become one of the world’s most widely distributed printed works. From 1991, only blue stores with the yellow IKEA wordmark on the facade were built. A kind of giant logo, visible from afar – brand-building of gigantic proportions, literally. The name on the catalogue also appeared in the blue and yellow logo and the wordmark on the front page. IKEA had become a piece of Sweden, exported. Strangely enough, the red and white logo was kept in Scandinavia for many years. But there could be no doubt that it was the same company, even though the logo was in different colours in different parts of the world. Quite simply, the brand was stronger than the uniform.
Updated logo 2018
Before the most recent update in 2018, the logo had not been revamped since the 1980s. The latest changes were intended to improve legibility, and ensure consistent recognition and colour reproduction in the new digital age. Nowadays, the same logo has to work just as well on a mobile screen as on a store front or paper bag.
Many major brands make extensive changes to their logo over time. Sometimes they switch to something completely different and make quite a fuss of it. But IKEA has had essentially the same fundamental expression in its logo since the 1960s. This is nicely in line with the general attitude at IKEA – to hurry slowly, be cost-conscious and preserve the origins. Because if you have a strong, distinctive promise, there’s no need to make constant changes. Few people have expressed it better than the IKEA founder, Ingvar Kamprad himself. When asked, “So what does IKEA actually stand for?” in a 2014 interview, his immediate reply was, “IKEA stands for good stuff at decent prices.” And who would want to change that?