Sean Hobson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Sean Hobson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Experts Explain How IKEA Instruction Manuals Are Designed

Sean Hobson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Sean Hobson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Building a piece of flat-packed furniture from IKEA can be an emotional rollercoaster. It is all worth it in the end, but the process can often seem like cruel and unusual torture by design. In a recent interview with Fast Company, IKEA's deputy packaging manager Allan Dickner admits that the instruction manuals are challenging, but, believe it or not, things could be a lot worse.

"We had one furniture piece, a type of wardrobe, which originally had over 400 fittings and screws to hold it together," Dickner told FastCo, explaining that packaging engineers are responsible for constructing early versions of the retailer's furniture before they settle on an "optimized" design. The "ready-to-assemble" model is one way that IKEA is able to offer its products at such affordable prices, but Dickner says that it's about finding a middle ground. "When it takes someone five hours to build it, you can ask yourself: have you gone too far with the flat packing? It’s always about finding a balance between ease of assembly and optimizing the packaging."

Dickner also explained that the engineers at IKEA use "proven solutions" as a starting point. The "generalized templates" are altered based on the unique specifications of the new product. They are also "algorithmically optimized," and are designed with structures like elevators and staircases in mind.

The instructions are made using various resources, including "construction drawings, digital snapshots, 3D models, and videos of test assemblies." According to Jan Fredlund, a designer who works on these manuals, the test assembly phase is key. The "communicators" who design the instructions are tasked with constructing the pieces for themselves to find points where others may be confused and make mistakes.

[h/t: FastCo]

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

The Force Field Cloak
This Glowing Blanket Is Designed to Ease Kids' Fear of the Dark
The Force Field Cloak
The Force Field Cloak

Many kids have a security blanket they bring to bed with them every night, but sometimes, a regular blankie is no match for the monsters that invade their imaginations once the lights are off. Now there’s a glow-in-the-dark blanket designed to make children feel safer in bed, no night light required.

Dubbed the Force Field Cloak, the fleece blanket comes in several colorful, glowing patterns that remain invisible during the day. At night, you leave the blanket under a bright light for about 10 minutes, then the shining design will reveal itself in the dark. The glow lasts 8 to 10 hours, just long enough to get a child through the night.

Inventor Terry Sachetti was inspired to create the blanket by his own experiences struggling with scary nighttime thoughts as a kid. "I remember when I was young and afraid of the dark. I would lie in my bed at night, and my imagination would start getting the best of me," he writes on the product's Kickstarter page. "I would start thinking that someone or something was going to grab my foot that was hanging over the side of the bed. When that happened, I would put my foot back under my blanket where I knew I was safe. Nothing could get me under my blanket. No boogiemen, no aliens, no monsters under my bed, nothing. Sound familiar?"

The Force Field Cloak, which has already surpassed its funding goals on both Indiegogo and Kickstarter, takes the comfort of a blanket to the next level. The glowing, non-toxic ink decorating the material acts as a gentle night light that kids can wrap around their whole body. The result, the team claims, is a secure feeling that quiets those thoughts about bad guys hiding in the shadows.

To pre-order a Force Field Cloak, you can pledge $36 or more to the product’s Indiegogo campaign. It is expected to start shipping in January 2018.


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