Jun 19, 2018

How IKEA Names Its Products: It’s a Surprisingly Brilliant Naming System

IKEA products stand out with their quirky brand names:

  • Docksta table
  • Ektorp sofa
  • Poäng armchair
  • Kallax shelving units
  • Billy bookcase

Each name elevates the perceived value of the object, and signals it has a distinct place in your home.

How IKEA names its products is ingenious. The naming system was created by Ingvar Kamprad, IKEA’s founder. Kamprad struggled with dyslexia, and he had trouble remembering the order of the numbers in item codes. So he swapped the numbers for names. This made it easier for him to remember each item, and as a result he made fewer mistakes when filling out forms.

The naming system is brilliant in its simplicity and scalability. Each product is named after Swedish towns and villages, humans, and other applicable Swedish words.

The system is even cooler than simply assigning random Swedish words to products. Each category of products is assigned a specific type of name. For example, outdoor furniture is named after Scandinavian islands:

  • Äpplarö are wooden patio furniture
  • Solleron are outdoor sofas
  • Mastholmen are outdoor coffee tables

If you study Google Maps, you can find each island that the product represents.

IKEA Names - Scandinavian islands

To simplify its inventory and branding, IKEA uses the same product name for each of its products in all its markets. A Fartyg ceiling light is a Fartyg no matter where you buy it.

Anne Quito breaks down the naming system:

  • Bathroom items: Names of Swedish lakes and bodies of water
  • Linens: Flowers and plants
  • Bedroom and Living Room Furniture: Norwegian places
  • Bookcases: Professions and Scandinavian boy’s names
  • Bowls and Vases: Swedish place names, adjectives, spices, herbs, fruits, and berries
  • Boxes, Pictures, and Wall Decorations: Swedish slang expressions and Swedish place names
  • Children’s Products: Mammals, birds, adjectives
  • Desks and Chairs: Scandinavian boy’s names
  • Fabrics and Curtains: Scandinavian girl’s names
  • Outdoor Furniture: Scandinavian islands
  • Kitchen Accessories: Fish, mushrooms and adjectives
  • Lighting: Units of measurement, seasons, months, days, shipping and nautical terms, Swedish place names
  • Rugs: Danish place names
  • Sofas, Chairs and Dining Sets: Swedish place names

The system helps IKEA name new products quickly and efficiently, but IKEA doesn’t constrain itself by the system. They’ll break their own rules when it makes sense.

Sladda BikeFor instance, the Billy bookcase, IKEA’s #1 selling product, is named after an employee, Billy Likjedhal. Some products have functional names, because they work better:

  • The Sladda bicycle translates to “skid” in Swedish.
  • The Krossa spice mill means to crush or grind.

With over 12,000 products, IKEA has created a brilliant naming system. The names are quirky and endearing, and they elevate the status of each product. The naming system is efficient and scalable, which is essential for a global brand that is naming thousands of unique products.

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