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Tom Dixon Ikea collaboration

Tom Dixon reveals details of "top-secret" IKEA collaboration

Tom Dixon is working with students and companies to develop a product with an "ecosystem" of add-ons for IKEA, the British designer has revealed.

Dixon's collaboration with IKEA was described as "top secret" when it was first announced during the Swedish brand's Democratic Design Day in June.

But speaking at a press conference previewing the 56th edition of Milan's Salone del Mobile yesterday, Dixon elaborated on the collaboration, saying he was building a modular furniture system with a high-quality base component.

Through various plug-ins, it could be adapted from a bed into a sofa or other item of furniture as the needs and finances of its users change.

"Rather than a bed that you buy for a short period of time, it's a sort of platform for living that can evolve into a sofa or into a workstation, according to plug-ins that you put on top," Dixon said.

"Very much like the iPhone, I'm hoping to encourage a whole ecosystem of apps that you stick on top of this basic platform of the bed."

Tom Dixon Ikea collaboration
Tom Dixon first announced the "top secret" collaboration at IKEA's Democratic Design Day in June

To build this ecosystem of add-ons, Dixon has partnered with three design schools – including the Royal College of Art and Parsons School of Design – as well as other companies.

"We've got a project with three universities — the Royal College, Parsons in New York and Japan – so there's 75 very fine minds working on it right now with actually much more superior ideas to the ones I came up with in the first place," he said.

"The objective is very much that IKEA take on the distribution and the manufacturing of this thing, and they're selling more of the platform because other people are creating an ecosystem around it. There is already a couple of companies on top of my own that are customising this object, so watch this space."

This kind of modular product would be in-keeping with IKEA's move towards more sustainable production. The company's head of sustainability recently said society had reached "peak home furnishings" and outlined plans for a "circular IKEA" that will encourage visitors to repair and recycle items.

"I think this is the kind of project that more and more companies are going to have to look at," said Dixon. "How you (a) bring longevity into something but (b) also flexibility into objects as well, just to reflect the way that everybody's living these days."

Other details known about the product include that it will have an aluminium frame, and that it will take its cues from IKEA's bestselling Klippan sofa – information that was revealed alongside the initial collaboration announcement in June.

At the same time, IKEA announced it was working with Danish design brand Hay on a number of products, including a redesign of its iconic Frakta shopping bag.

The fruits of Dixon and IKEA's collaboration will launch in August of 2017. Before that, they will be shown during Milan design week, which Dixon described as the "Glastonbury of design" for young people more interested in having experiences than buying products.

"I'm thinking about whether I wouldn't be better off hiring a couple of buses and being a tour guide for a week rather than showing my goods," he said.