It’s a sad day for folks who look forward to holding a well-designed product guide for Swedish furniture in their meat hands. On Monday, IKEA announced that it will cease publication of its beloved catalog after 70 years of annual editions.
In a statement, IKEA Managing Director Konrad Grüss said that the decision was “emotional but rational” as customer interest in the print catalog has declined and shoppers seek out digital alternatives for inspiration. Grüss said that the just-released 2021 catalog will be the final edition of what has been the furniture giant’s primary marketing tool for a generation.
IKEA’s catalog was one of the few publications of its type that millions of people still awaited with anticipation each year. Its design sense, layout, colorful photography, and humor made it a standout example of the form, and it was always evolving with the times.
IKEA considers the 1951 edition designed by the company’s founder Ingvar Kamprad to be the first official catalog, but there was a more traditional, barebones edition released in 1950. Over the years, the aspect ratio, typeface, and length of each edition changed considerably along with the interior designs of the times. The first edition of the catalog to be put online in full came in 2000, and IKEA says it hit peak readership in 2016 with 200 million copies distributed in 32 languages. And by 2014, about 75% of the imagery contained in the look book was reportedly computer generated.
Now, it’s time for the catalog itself to live a digital-only life and evolve in new forms like augmented reality. Next autumn, IKEA plans to release a commemorative book documenting the history of the catalog that will be available to customers in its physical store locations. In the meantime, you can browse all the back issues in the IKEA Museum.