Emotion as a universal language: thoughts about IKEA’s information design

ikea advice and warnings
Originally uploaded by linoleum jet.

Boston now has a semi-convenient IKEA, and the city rejoices. Last week I joined the festivities and braved the rain and traffic to bring home some cheap Swedish boxes of my own.

IKEA products are notorious for their complicated assembly. I found that it was easy, particularly since I had a rubber mallet, 18v drill and helpful roommate on hand.

For those less blessed, the assembly instructions include a wonderfully emotive set of warnings and suggestions, starring a Ziggy-esque everyman. The cartoon uses emotion rather than language to convey a set of instructions. I wonder if this information design tactic results in greater adherence to the official IKEA suggestions. I know that when I saw the sad little guy with the cracked cabinet I promptly put a rug under my work area.

The little guy’s frustrations and joy are universal; IKEA products are shipped round the world, with astonishing range (“This year’s IKEA catalog was produced in 38 editions, in 17 languages for 28 countries.“) The cartoon requires no words, and thus no awkward repetition in multiple languages.

~ by linoleumjet on January 23, 2006.

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