In a first for Swedish flat pack pros IKEA, their world famous Democratic Design Days made an appearance on Australian shores this week, at Sydney\u2019s MCA.\r\n\r\nThe company, which since 1943 has offered stylish and affordable furniture and homewares en masse to thrifty decorators and people who like to use Allen keys, has been hosting Democratic Design Days (essentially part open day, part conference, part showroom) around the world for some years now, as a way to communicate their brand message, which is easily and often misconstrued, to the general public. \r\n\r\nAs well as furniture and seminars, a pop-up restaurant overlooking the harbour was constructed to serve IKEA\u2019s famous Swedish meatballs, but with an Australian twist: kangaroo mince.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nMarcus Engman, IKEA\u2019s Head of Design, was on hand during Monday\u2019s first seminar, joined on stage by IKEA Australia\u2019s Head of Interior Design\u00a0Tiffany Buckins,\u00a0Designer for IKEA of Sweden Andreas Fredriksson, Professor for Spatial Theory and Director of Interior Architecture Thea Brejzek, and Deputy Editor for Gizmodo Australia Tegan Jones\r\n\r\nWhile topics varied, one thing is clear: IKEA, whose revenue last year alone exceeded 36 billion Euros, is keen to change the perception that something cheap is also poorly made. In Europe, where sustainability is ingrained in the minds of children from an early age, the culture of throwing things out just because they\u2019re easily replaced is not as rife as it is here, and though IKEA is very aware that their items are extremely low-cost, they\u2019re certainly not in any way low quality.\r\n\r\nAnother major feature of the Democratic Design Days is to showcase to the public exactly what the company has been working on, and how their collaborations (which are incredibly broad) drive their design philosophy, and vice versa.\r\n\r\nRecently, they have made waves by collaborating with Head of Menswear Design at Louis Vuitton Virgil Abloh, as well as sportswear company adidas, to bring new elements from outside into the traditional \u201cIKEA home\u201d.\r\n\r\nThey\u2019ve also made an impression with their smart home technology, and how it practically fits in to a modern home setting. One observation the panel were quick to agree on was the ability for some \u201csmart home\u201d inventions to seem like they exist more for the sake of existing than to meaningfully benefit the lives of the consumer (smart water bottle, anybody?).\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nEngman, who is an entertaining presence, had a packed ballroom chuckling after a brief demonstration of how IKEA\u2019s smart lighting integrates with Amazon\u2019s Alexa service, with voice commands controlling different parts of a shelf representing different rooms in a house.\r\n\r\nHis cutting remark: \u201cWorks almost as good as a switch\u201d, whilst worthy of a laugh, is also endemic of the no-nonsense design philosophy that IKEA has adopted since they were a fledgling furniture store. Everything they sell, right down to the tea light candles, has been designed in house to the nth degree (large teams of designers have been known to spend years on simple household items, jut to ensure that the final product is a holistic solution to consumer demands).\r\n\r\nAnd while smart home technology might be open to mockery, sustainability is something that isn\u2019t, especially to Marcus and his design team. Though IKEA has been criticized for the throw-away nature of their wares, the enigmatic Head of Design insists repeatedly that just because it\u2019s cheap, it doesn\u2019t mean it\u2019s poor quality, a message that resonated throughout the fixated room, and a reminder that different markets might respond differently, but with an idea as novel (and simple) as a local Democratic Design Day, perceptions can be changed, consumers can be educated, and the hard work of one of the most famous design teams in the world can be put on its pedestal (once it\u2019s been assembled, of course).\r\n\r\nKangaroo meatballs are a great idea, but sustainable practices are even better, and IKEA\u2019s first attempt to bring their curious brand of Swedish PR to Australia looks to have been a rousing success.\r\nIKEA\r\n\r\n\r\nHave you subscribed to\u00a0Man of Many? You can also follow us on\u00a0Facebook,\u00a0Twitter, and\u00a0Instagram.