Real democracy isn’t cheap. Or is it?

Yeah, I’m guilty. I was in IKEA last year, and saw a poster proclaiming some wall shelf as an example of democratic design. It got me thinking about what that meant. There were a few sentences about the form or the creation being for the everyday man, and then, underneath all that, the key phrases- ‘slash costs’ and ‘low prices’. In this context, ‘democracy’ meant affordable, maybe even cheap. The price was the key.

I know that in our connected 21st century world, there are competing concepts attached to the word democracy. Lots of them revolve around getting people involved in a collaborative effort, but IKEA didn’t mean that here. Keeping resource costs down and packaging to a minimum are the only real takeaways for me. Democracy=$14.99, shipping not included.

Perhaps the marketing message is supposed to be about the benefits of co-creation and user-driven design. When we equate democracy and cheapness, though, we discount those benefits. Would it make more sense to call it an example of co-design, since that speaks to the collaborative design model they want to push?