Ikea’s generative AI furniture designs are trippy, retro, and inspiring

ikea generative ai
ikea generative ai

Artificial intelligence has shown itself to be really good at writing essays, generating artwork, and even composing music. But are algorithms capable of designing a new Ikea chair?

That’s a question the Ikea-funded Swedish design agency Space10 has been exploring on behalf of the furniture giant. Space10 recently began a series of experiments on creativity in the Age of AI, which included training AI models on photos taken from decades-old Ikea catalogs.

The resulting AI-generated images not only look like they would be right at home on Ikea’s show floors, but they’re also teaching Space10’s staff how machine learning could become a useful tool for any designer, whether they’re working on a personal passion project or the next Billy shelf.

Space10 recently collaborated with video journalist Joss Fong and designer Áron Filkey to explore the potential of using generative AI for design. Instead of just starting from scratch with a publicly available generative AI model, the duo trained the Stable Diffusion image-generation model on Ikea catalogs from the 1970s and 1980s. “That really showcased the potential use of training data,” says Space10’s Alexandra Zenner.

Images generated with these two distinct data sets reflect the general aesthetic of those time periods. AI-generated furniture designs inspired by 1970s Ikea catalogs are colorful, with lots of rounded corners and a general playfulness, while the 1980s catalogs led to a more minimal design with clean lines and 90-degree angles. At the same time, the resulting images still have an Ikea-like quality to them, which includes the use of natural woods and an embrace of smaller spaces.