IKEA’s secret Swedish code


Anyone who’s ever been in one of the 350 + IKEAs in the world, has experienced a tiny slice of Sweden. 

In the stores, one thing that reflects Swedish and Scandinavian culture is the name of the thousands of products. 

What many people don’t know is that there are strict rules for the naming of the merchandise. Fascinatingly, these rules were devised by IKEA’s founder Ingvar Kamprad because he struggled with dyslexia and had trouble remembering the order of numbers in item codes of the inventory. 

So what’s the secret? Here are the guidelines: 

  • Bathroom articles = Names of Swedish lakes and bodies of water
  • Bed textiles = Flowers and plants
  • Beds, wardrobes, hall furniture = Norwegian place names
  • Bookcases = Professions, Scandinavian boy’s names
  • Bowls, vases, candle and candle holders = Swedish place names, adjectives, spices, herbs, fruits and berries
  • Boxes, wall decoration, pictures and frames, clocks = Swedish slang expressions, Swedish place names
  • Children’s products = Mammals, birds, adjectives
  • Desks, chairs and swivel chairs = Scandinavian boy’s names
  • Fabrics, curtains = Scandinavian girl’s names
  • Garden 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, armchairs, chairs and dining tables = Swedish place names

There are some exceptions to these rules where the product’s name is a Swedish verb reflecting the function of the item, eg a spice mill called ‘krossa’ (to crush) or a lamp called ‘böja’ (to bend). 

Obviously, IKEA’s branders try to vet any words that are offensive locally. And with a few notable exceptions, they seem to succeed. More about this in a later blog. 

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