Burn All Of Your Ikea Furniture and Say Hello To Campaign
By: Bill McCool
Chances are, you have spent more than 500 hours of your life putting together Ikea furniture. While we can provide zero statistics to back this up, you know that we’re right and that the antichrist is from Sweden.
Taking its name and design principles from the portable furniture typically used during military campaigns of old, Campaign Furniture is delivered to your home in flat-packs and can be assembled within minutes. We spoke with CEO Brad Sewell about their direct to consumer, migraine-free furniture and their packaging-first designs.
How was Campaign Furniture started?
Brad Sewell: Campaign was started to fill a huge hole in the market—quality furniture at an affordable price. We understood there were two fundamental issues to address: shipping and manufacturing. The biggest cost in this industry is shipping, both for the manufacturer and the consumer (shipping costs get baked into the price). Manufacturing processes also hadn’t changed in 50+ years. Cheaper materials had been introduced into the mix, sure, but it was typically upholstery stapled to a plywood frame.
We went through hundreds of iterations. Where we ultimately landed is what you see on our site today. A chair, loveseat, and sofa developed around a steel frame with removable covers and solid wood legs. The steel allowed us to invent our cover system, which Velcros on and off, and design a sofa that didn’t need to tools to assemble. It also allowed us to flat-pack the piece into two boxes so it would ship quickly.
How were you able to package a piece of furniture that's very-nearly assembled in such an efficient manner?
Brad Sewell: The first design is never the simplest. We spent a considerable amount of time prototyping and evolving through a human-centered design approach to simplify the product. We were constantly trying to remove parts or create components that served multiple purposes. Creating something simple is actually really challenging. It took us a year to design the current product, and it’s still ever-changing. The beautiful thing about our design is that the foundation can stay the same while interior and exterior can improve over time.
How did you design the packaging for Campaign?
Brad Sewell: For some companies, packaging is an after-thought. It may just be the bow around the product, but for us, it was the product. The packaging has gone through even more prototypes and evolution than the product itself.
Our product has two different “modes”: shipping mode and assembly mode. We started designing its box and shipping mode before we starting designing its assembly mode. But even before that, we designed the business model, which was built around the constraints of UPS and FedEx ground.
How are flat-pack shipping solutions friendlier to the environment?
Brad Sewell: Flat-pack doesn’t always mean better for the environment. The things to consider are the materials and the processes used to make the product. Are the materials recyclable, do the processes generate environmental waste? How much fuel was required to transport the packages from wherever it was manufactured?
Campaign is optimizing on all those front. Not only are the product’s raw materials selected because of their environmental footprint, but the location of our factory in Tennessee is closer to the customer, which takes less energy and fuel to deliver our products. And we’ve designed the sofa to fit within a millimeter of UPS and FedEx shipping constraints, cutting out middlemen and designing for the quickest path between two points.
Every component of a Campaign piece is recyclable, including the packaging. The frame can be recycled, the upholstery can be melted down and reused, the wood legs are compostable.
Why did you decide to eschew the stereotypical showroom and instead opt to have your pieces displayed in places like breweries, hotel lobbies, and coffee shops?
Brad Sewell: In our minds, part of the hassle of buying a sofa is shopping for it. Walking through the maze of IKEA or walking into a Pottery Barn isn’t very engaging. We want more rich experiences. Going to your favorite coffee shop and sitting on a Campaign chair or doing some holiday shopping at a local boutique and discovering our loveseat, it just felt more natural to us.
Bill McCool is a freelance writer based out of Los Angeles. Though new to the world of design, he has always been a storyteller by trade and he seeks to inspire and cultivate a sense of awe with the work and artists he profiles. When he's not winning over his daughters with the art of the Dad joke, he is usually working on a pilot, watching the Phillies, or cooking an elaborate meal for his wife.