Friday, January 23, 2009

Hacking IKEA for Exhibit Design

Sometimes the best way to create an inexpensive exhibit component is to find an off-the-shelf item and twist or adapt it to your own purposes. Walking the aisles of your local hardware, auto supply, or toy stores can often provide great inspiration (and raw materials) for your exhibit installations.

I maintain the ever-expanding Great Big Exhibit Resource List on my website just to keep track of suppliers of such arcane materials as fake food or glow-in-the dark string.

Two of my favorite "big" stores to find adaptable exhibit supplies are Target and IKEA. So you can imagine how excited I was when I found the IKEA Hacker blog!

IKEA Hacker gives lots of great suggestions for "hacking" IKEA products as well as many step-by-step examples for how selected "hackers" completed their projects.

A recent idea featured on IKEA Hacker that could be easily adapted to museums is the "Artwork Hanger" pictured at the top of this posting.

Stephanie used an IKEA Deka curtain rod, which is basically two lengths of wire suspended between two small metal posts. Then she used the little clips that normally hold the curtains to fasten art projects to the suspended wires. This would be a fun (and cheap!) way to display children's artwork in a gallery, or as a simple holder for drying projects in an arts and crafts area.

So why not take a "field trip" to some of your local stores this weekend to see what sorts of "exhibit hacks" supplies you might be able to turn up. Let us know what you find in the "Comments Section" below!

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  1. Thank you for the link to our web site.

    I've really been enjoying reading through your blog and so wish I could bring my girls to the Babar exhibit!

  2. As with all off-the-shelf stuff, be careful! Ikea furniture, by and large, was designed to be placed in one house, and used by one household.
    Museum exhibits, on the other hand, get used by many many many more people and often get moved many many many times over their life cycle.

    I have recent, stinging experience with two Ikea-sourced components damaged way way way too early.

    Which enforces why exhibit designers often choose industrial or custom components over consumer-grade.

    (All that being said, I will certainly hack more Ikea in the future...too easy and too fun, and sometimes, too practical)

  3. Hi Jason,

    Thanks for your comments

    Your cautionary note is warranted, but I think carefully choosing off-the-shelf items (whether consumer or industrial grade) is often a much better choice than defaulting to custom-made components.

    Certain IKEA lines like "Kritter" hold up very well to the rigors of museums.

  4. Hey Jason,

    Just out of curiosity, could you briefly describe what IKEA products failed and what you were doing with them?

  5. Hi Paul,

    You may be interested in this site-

    The have tons of ikea furniture in all sorts of CAD formats.. including my favorite SketchUp.

    hack away!