Why IKEA Uses 3D Renders vs. Photography for Their Furniture Catalog

Why IKEA Uses 3D Renders vs. Photography for Their Furniture Catalog

IKEA is the one furniture store that I’m always excited to go to. Getting lost in the maze of room set-ups is thrilling, and then you get to the end and are rewarded with their famous meatballs.

They differentiate themselves from other furniture companies in unique ways. Not only are their physical stores exciting to go to, but they’re also the first company to flatpack their items, and their furniture design is impressive.

In fact, IKEA is one of the most sustainable product design companies in the world, emphasizing renewable energy and diversity in the workplace.

But that’s not what I think about when IKEA comes to mind. No, what I think about are their bulky catalogs that show up in my mailbox from time to time. With a promise to reinvigorate my bedroom, I’m always taken away by how stunning the images are.

So, how does IKEA get their furniture photos to look so good? Well, they don’t. What you see in their catalogs and on their website are furniture 3D renderings, rather than real photos.

IKEA furniture 3D rendering examples

IKEA’s Masterful Use of 3D Rendering

We can boil IKEA’s success down to two things: unique in-store experiences and stunning imagery. They fill their marketing material with enviable set-ups with hundreds and thousands of products, and 3D rendering makes it all possible.

IKEA exists in several different countries all with different preferences for their interior design. This makes marketing their over 9,500 products a challenge. With 3D renders, though, IKEA is able to manipulate their marketing material to suit different demographics without shipping a single item.

They’ve created a separate company, IKEA Communication AB (ICOM) that’s in charge of visuals for just about every aspect of the brand.

In 2005, a 3D rendered image of a chair, Bertil, was included in a catalog. By 2008, the company had created a completely 3D rendered kitchen, the first of its kind.

IKEA kitchen 3D rendering and modeling examples
To ensure everything looked photorealistic, the company’s photographers and 3D modelers swapped places. They learned the ins-and-outs of each others’ roles so that they could create better visuals, and it worked.

Using 3ds Max and V-Ray, IKEA creates around 75% of all of their furniture images. They’ve effectively built a 3D bank of all of their images that they can use in whatever setting they like, allowing them to create affordable marketing initiatives all over the world.

It’s cost-effective and environmentally-friendly, according to IKEA’s Martin Enthed.

“The most expensive and complicated things we have to create and shoot are kitchens,” Enthed says. “From both an environmental and time point of view, we don’t want to have to ship in all those white-goods from everywhere, shoot them and then ship them all back again. And unfortunately, kitchens are one of those rooms that differ very much depending on where you are in the world. A kitchen in the US will look very different to a kitchen in Japan, for example, or in Germany.”

Reasons Why 3D Rendering Is Superior to Furniture Photography

There are many convincing reasons why 3D rendering is superior to furniture photography. Let’s take a look.

1. Faster turnaround on the creation of marketing materials

It’s undeniable that creating digital marketing materials is miles faster than doing a furniture photoshoot. That’s compounded for a company like IKEA, who has hundreds of products all around the world.

If you miss a deadline and are unable to produce the required images, you’ll have no catalog to go out and miss out on all of those sales. With no pictures, your trade show won’t be as effective, as you’ll have a hard time showing off your product.

The process behind furniture photography is a lengthy one. A prototype must be created and potentially shipped to location. The photoshoot itself takes some time, and then comes post-production. And if you need any alterations? You’ll likely need to reshoot the whole thing.

There are plenty of organizational issues involved with a photoshoot, creating plenty of room for errors. Delayed shipments, shoddy photographers, and a poor studio are all potential issues you can run into.

When it comes to creating that same photograph as a 3D render, the process is completely different. The only two things you need to consider are writing up the details of the project and the final approval stage.

No photoshoots or shipping is involved.

And if you have a qualified 3D rendering service working on your project, things will be even quicker.

2. Costs involved in furniture photography far outweigh 3D rendering

Furniture photography can be costly, and there isn’t much of a way to get around that. If you’re looking to be as cost-effective as possible, getting a 3D render is usually the better choice.

With photography, there are quite a few expenses to account for.

Manufacturing your prototype traditionally can be expensive. Accounting for all of its color options and variations, you’ll have to create multiple prototypes. For a company like IKEA, with hundreds of products in different sizes, it would be massively inefficient to do it this way.

3d render kitchen

Product shipping is another concern, especially with furniture. It’s not cheap to ship large items, especially when there are many of them. So, now you’ve got prototypes you’ve got to move around, potentially overseas, which you’ll later throw in the trash.

You can also count on paying rent for a space to shoot your photos, as well as the cost of photographers and post-production. Even for a single photo shoot, your bill could be hefty. If you have to do reshoots, add on another big fee.

Now, if you’re rendering your product, most of these fees are eliminated. The only thing you have to pay for when it comes to a 3D render is the designer. Everything is created digitally, from the lighting and décor to the set and furniture itself.

3. Ability to make design changes on the fly

With a photograph, there’s a limit to the changes you can make after the fact. Post-production can touch up a photo, making the color pop and changing the lighting. But no major alterations can be made to an already done photo.

If you need a substantial change, you’ll have to reshoot. This can be expensive and push your timeline back by quite a bit.

With a 3D model, you can make all of the changes you want without any repercussions. Need to change the lightning? No problem. Wish there were a few more flowers in the background? That can be arranged.

And if your product changes, or if your product has different colors, all of that can be corrected in a 3D model. But with a photograph, as I said, reshoots would be required.

For a company like IKEA, being able to change the color of a render to match their different product customizations is priceless. It saves them the stress of having to ship multiple colors of the same item to one photoshoot.

Why 3D Rendering Makes Sense for Companies of All Sizes

While photorealistic 3D rendering may sound like something out of reach for small companies, it doesn’t have to be. Regardless of how many products you have – even if it’s just one – you could benefit from a 3D render.

When your design is going through changes, having a 3D rendering will allow you to easily manipulate the design, making changes on-the-go. This is important as it’ll allow backers, including crowdfunding websites and investors, to visualize the end-product.

A 3D model can be 3D printed so you’ll have a physical prototype to show off. It’s also more cost-effective to make changes to a 3D model than a physical design. Easily change colors, materials, and functions of your design without any stress.

Cad Crowd can connect you with pre-vetted, qualified 3D rendering and CAD professionals. They’re experts at all of the modern 3D modeling software and are completely confidential.

Ready to have your idea turned into a 3D model? Get a free quote today, or have a look at these furniture designs from some of our CAD designers.

Freelance furniture 3D rendering by Goal-Archdes
Freelance furniture 3D rendering by Goal-Archdes