Every July, Ikea reveals its annual catalog to much fanfare. At a global distribution volume of 203 million copies, it might be one of the most widely read publications in the world. Putting together this 328-page booklet is certainly no small feat: An Ikea brand rep has confirmed to Refinery29 that over 1,800 photo options were shot just for the cover alone, and setting up the interior studio displays in its headquarters in Sweden was a fourth-month-long process. With so many moving parts, no wonder the brand has enlisted a "human catalog" to help out.
Having been in print since 1951, the catalog is not only a useful chronicle of furniture trends: It also serves as a lens into how our living situation and family structure have evolved over time. Intrigued by how the catalog encapsulates modern family life, we invited Tanja Dolphin, Ikea's group catalogue leader, to take us on a trip down memory — with exclusive archive scans provided by the company. Be prepared to learn a few surprising facts about the catalogue.