Tag: Works That Work

Wordless Instructions

Whether it is a chair, a shelf, or bed frame, every IKEA knock-down product is sold around the world with a similar assembly instructions design meant to be understood regardless of language, culture or experience in building furniture.

No words are needed when it comes to assembling a piece of IKEA furniture. Accompanying the Swedish company’s knock-down wares is a set of assembly instructions that must guide Russians, Americans, Chinese, Egyptians, Dominicans and other nationalities to build their own IKEA products simply by following a series of line drawings.

Every IKEA assembly instructions begins with a promise: an image of what the product looks like when put together successfully. A comic strip comes next, as a cartoon character gives out general tips, including an assurance that any doubts can be addressed by calling the company — although no number is given. After running through a check-list of tools provided, the customer is ready to begin self-assembly. Step-by-step, the following pages illustrate how the dismantled pack of parts are assembled into the product when the instructions are carried out.

This formulaic instructions design is what IKEA has been developing since launching the LÖVET side table in 1956, the company’s first self-assembled product. While no instructions were needed to put together this simple three-legged leaf-shaped table, the product kickstarted IKEA’s expansion into knock-down furniture and led to the birth of its assembly instructions. Founder Invar Kampard started selling such furniture in his mail-order business after seeing company designer Gillis Lundgren saw off the legs of a table to transport in his car. The Swedish entrepreneur realized the sale of knockdown furniture meant the most expensive parts of his business — assembly and transportation — were shared with customers instead. Read more

The Chair That’s Everywhere


The industry calls it the monobloc chair. To everyone else it’s that cheap plastic chair, the squarish, one-piece, stackable thing that populates the lawns and gardens of the world, so ubiquitous as to go unnoticed.

It seems to be everywhere: inside a storeroom in Florida, outside the Uruguay Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, and on a boat on the Zambezi River in Zambia, to mention just a few of the places the chair has been spotted, according to the Plastic Chair World Map. No one knows how many exist in their different versions or even who the original designer is, but they clearly number in the millions.

➜ Read the full story in Works That Work No. 10

May the Worst Politician Win

Entertaining as well as educational, this gently satirical card game inspired by the dirty politics of the Philippines hopes to open Filipinos’ eyes to the tricks their politicians play.

When he first moved to the Philippines for work two years ago, P. J. Lim encountered political campaigning in the unlikeliest of places—at funerals.

‘Some people are so poor that they can’t afford funerals, so politicians fund them, and you see their faces all over the condolence messages,’ says Lim, who hails from neighbouring Singapore. ‘It is ridiculous and it is real.’

That encounter sparked a conversation with his Filipino friend, R. B. Ting, about the crazy things that happen in that country’s politics. As the duo drew up a list that ran the gamut from marrying a celebrity to sex scandals, and even kidnapping opponents, they decided to create a game out of these examples in time for the Southeast Asian nation’s presidential elections in May 2016.

Read the full story in Works That Work No. 9