Have you’ve ever wondered why Ikea products look much better in pictures than once they’re set in your living room filled with other furniture from the Swedish brand? Well, this is because most furniture in Ikea catalogs are no real furniture, but (often) instead, computer-generated images.
A recent article in CGSociety, a global organization for creative digital artists, revealed that 75% of images of Ikea products are not real photographs of the furniture themselves, but 3D images.
In this article, Martin Enthed, IT Manager for the in-house communication agency of IKEA (which also happens to be responsible for the notoriously head-exploding hieroglyphics known as Ikea assembly instructions…) explains that Ikea began to discuss the idea of abandoning traditional pictures for computer graphics, almost ten years ago.
The initial goal was not to improve the quality of the image, has he explained, but to streamline the logistics of producing images and save some of the money which was spent, back then, to build and ship furniture prototypes around the world to be photographed.
Ikea has produced its first synthetic image of the chair Bertil in 2006, and in 2010, the company has created an entire room using this technique. In 2012, 12% of its catalog and online photos were created this way, according to the Wall Street Journal. At the time Ikea decided to make this switch to digital imaging, its catalog and its website were already recognizable says Enthed, and the company was keen to ensure that its customers would not notice the difference.
The 3D specialists of the company have thus been asked to be trained in photography, and photographers to learn how to create 3D images. Ikea now has an image bank of 25,000 models in high resolution, sharp enough to capture the texture of a sofa.
“Actually now some of our photographers have completely “gone over” – they’ve become 3D artists. And some of our 3D artists have abandoned their computers and become photographers! There’s been a real merge. It’s been astonishing, really.”
Martin Enthed, IT Manager for the in-house communication agency of IKEA
Today, 75% of Ikea’s single product shots are 3D images, but most “group” pictures in the Ikea catalog, featuring rooms filled with furniture and people, are still made the traditional way, in the Ikea photo studio of Älmhult in Sweden.