25% of IKEA Catalogues Will Have CAD Renders Instead of Real Products

Photorealistic rendering in product design has reached a point in which it is close to impossible to see whether or not a render is real or not. Take a look at these two pictures. Which one is real? Which one is fake? Maybe both of them are fake ... or both are real.

Creating IKEA's catalogue is a massive undertaking. Every picture of an IKEA product you've ever seen was taken in IKEA's 94,000 sq. foot photo studio in Almhult, Sweden. Over 10 months, 285 photographers, carpenters and interior designers to craft, decorate, photograph and take-down whole kitchens, porches or bathrooms. Even then, there was no way IKEA was able to keep up with its growing catalogue.

Enter photorealistic rendering.

In 2005, IKEA tasked a few interns trained in computer graphics to create an image of an IKEA product without the aid of a camera. When no one noticed that a 'fake' chair had been placed in their catalogue, IKEA began hiring teams to render more of their products. Fast forward to 2012 - 12% of all content is a virtual realization of the products CAD file. By next year, it will be 25%.

The net benefit is less studio space, less time and less physical waste is created. No perfectly good bathrooms have to be thrown away. Renderings can be tweaked to suit regional styles - darker tones for American buyers, lighter for Scandinavian or Japanese consumers. Ultimately the aim is lower costs of business without sacrificing anything. Thus far few customers have noticed, so IKEA is steaming ahead with virtualizing as much of their product lines as possible.

It's a dead give-away - or is it?

As a few engineers and designers on GrabCAD probably knows, a truly photorealistic rendering is the grand sum of minor imperfections, otherwise it seems 'too perfect to be real'. According to Anneli Sjogren, head of photography, IKEA's rendering teams work with actual carpenters to add them. "Let's say we have a door that is supposed to look like an old door that has been repainted. [Carpenters] know where surfaces fade and wear and have a fine eye for detail and they can help the 3-D artist get the right look."

There are hundreds of different franchises and independent Product photography studios that will likely begin to widely adopt this approach. If photorealistic rendering is your thing, take IKEA's story to heart - there's a place for your talents.

Especially if you thought that photo A was a rendering, and photo B was real.

Source: Wall Street Journal and a hat-tip to Kristina

  • Nurk

    Interesting to know what kind of rendering software they will use, do you have info ?

  • http://www.renderpimp.com dave davidson

    they have already started using 3d renders and its vray render engine.