Marcus Engman on the value of curiosity and IKEA’s first African collaboration

IKEA's head of design chats with us about their upcoming African design collection created with Design Indaba, as well as the vision that drives his company.

Marcus Engman is the head of design at multinational home furnishing design company, IKEA – and he's working with Design Indaba on an exciting collaboration that will see IKEA’s first authentically African collection.

According to Engman, it is an unwavering willingness to learn and a healthy sense of inquiry that allows IKEA to flourish. Rather than selling the same product to the same people over and over, which could be more financially rewarding, Engman believes it is IKEA’s tenacity to turn problems into possibilities for a wider audience that makes it successful. It is also this vision that makes Africa’s developing cities fertile ground for a company like IKEA.

“We are a curious company. We’re curious about everything from production to the different views of designers all around the world. From IKEA’s point of view, we’re here to learn. We need to tap into what is happening in the big cities of Africa,” says Engman.

Like so many great collaborations, this one did not originate from on-screen market research or rigorous scientific study. But rather a casual meeting between Engman and Design Indaba founder Ravi Naidoo, who together conceived the idea that is now materialising into an international collaboration between creatives.

“This is a constant strive we have. We are a vision-driven company rather than a sales-driven company primarily. Our vision is to make a better everyday life for as many people as possible. It’s really important for us to have mutual learning,” says Engman, “No matter whether it’s a producer, a designer or an engineer, we’re keen to learn from new parties. I think it should be the same thing for the collaboration partner.”

Drawn from Design Indaba’s extensive network of creatives that are operating across the African continent, this new project includes designers from several fields and not just product design. Bethan Rayner, Naeem Biviji, Bibi Seck, Christian Benimana, Hend Riad, Mariam Hazem, Issa Diabaté, Laduma Ngxokolo, Paula Nascimento, Renee Rossouw, Selly Raby Kane and Sindiso Khumalo are working with Mikael Axelsson, Kevin Gouriou, Hanna Dalrot and Johanna Jelenik from IKEA.

The designers met up to work on the collection in Cape Town earlier this year inside the IKEA House, a temporary workshop that was erected during the during the Design Indaba Conference to get the ball rolling. The exclusive new collection is slated for launch in 2019.