How do you stop sending your kitchen sets to the dumpster bin? If your IKEA, you bring on the power of 3D rendering. The massive Swedish furniture manufacturer is transitioning part of its photography effort from the studio to the screen, bringing on more virtual showrooms to tantalize your consumer tastebuds and at the same time cutting the hefty cost of continually switching out and trashing studio sets.

Which is Real?

Can you tell? People who saw the initial test rendering put in the IKEA catalog couldn’t. Mind you, it was a single rendering of a chair, that took the better part of a year to create. It was enough proof for IKEA to start shifting their kitchens to the computer. Now, it’s saving time and waste. As the WSJ reports,

“It’s a clever way to save money,” Anneli Sjogren, head of photography at IKEA, said during a recent interview… “We don’t have to throw away kitchens in the Dumpster after the photo shoot.”

It started as a project, when three computer students approached IKEA in 2005 to create a chair for their Thesis. It took them one year to create a chair model that IKEA then put into the catalog as a test to see if consumers could spot the difference. They couldn’t, and the rest is history.

This year IKEA plans to double the amount of content that is rendered, increasing the amount of computer generated images you see to 25% with the continued success of cutting cost each year by 2-3%. Jens Hansegard, Wall Street Journal reporter, says the process is currently slower than the photo-shoot, but also constricted by the four walls. 3D rendering allows them to move the camera further back, getting wider shots, with the added ability to change hues on the furniture for a specific market.

The current 94,000 sq. ft. photography studio employs 285 photographers, carpenters and other staff. A lot of these are becoming part of the 3D rendering process, advising the digital artist on look, feel and color changes.

That 94,000s sq. ft. photo studio is about to turn into a massive render farm. This isn’t a big surprise and it’s certainly evidence for how 3D rendering can save some cash, and even more, save set-up time and waste that you would have with a photo shoot. What is surprising is that they’re already rendering out full rooms–pots, pans, plants, cabinets and waffles–not simple product shots on a white background. After the complete transition, they should see even more savings. And without the maintenance of a 94,000 sq ft photo studio, you should still be able to buy a pile of Swedish meatballs and a LACK sidetable for less than the cost of driving to IKEA.

Thanks to Dave Moore who plans to render 25% of himself this year as well.

Images: IKEA
Source: WSJ


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.