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Getting Lost in Ikea

Anyone who desires to lose three hours of their life can easily do so by making a quick trip to Ikea. Getting lost in this retail behemoth is an obligatory experience for modern urbanites.

Ikea is designed deliberately to confuse—to keep you in its warren for as long as possible and maximise the chance of impulse purchases.

The labyrinthine layout is the antithesis of desire lines. Sight-lines, the catalyst for desire lines, are blocked. A natural desire for escape is deliberately thwarted and your only choice is social compliance—to be told where to go and what you desire. You desire a Swedish, minimalist home in miniature. You desire life in a 4-metre square bedsit that contains everything you could possible need, except natural light. But you can have candles instead.

Grabbing the nearest soft toy or wine glass for comfort, you wander aimlessly through the meandering aisles, hoping that soon, one day, this will end and you will find a way out.

And slowly, as your self is subsumed under mile after mile of soft furnishings, your brain slips into the Ikea mindset: “I didn’t know I needed a new bath mat. But now that I’m here, it seems such a bargain. If I don’t pick it up now I’ll never find it again.”


“While we’re here, in the middle of nowhere, we may as well make a day of it. Meatballs, anyone?”

Supermarkets use similar tactics albeit on a lesser scale, placing popular items such as bread and milk at the far end of the store so shoppers are forced to walk past acres of other, desirable products on their way. The value of impulse purchases to retailers is massive.

This is desire managed.

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