According to Mark Wilson at Fast Company, back in 1953:
Gillis Lundgren was unable to wedge a table into the back of his car. In a bout of frustration, he either patiently unscrewed or feverishly sawed away the table’s legs (sources differ), but in any case, he went back to his employer with the idea for self-assembled furniture that packed flat for easy shipping. That employer happened to be the retailer Ikea. They created a table called the Lövet. And the rest is history.
He was only the fourth employee at IKEA and went on to design the Billy Bookcase in 1978; they make 15 of them every minute and by its 30th anniversary in 2009 they had sold 41 million of them. No word on how many are still standing. Because while we might sometimes complain about their quality and durability, Lundgren, in an award acceptance speech in 2009 quoted in Quartz:
“My design philosophy has always been that I design for the many people, I want to create solutions for everyday based on people’s needs,” Lundgren said when he won the Tenzing Prize in 2012. “My products are simple, practical and useful for everyone, no matter how old you are or what your life situation.”
Lundgren also is quoted in the Washington post as being proud of his bookcase and its role in reading:
I’m particularly happy that Billy has made it possible for so many people to build their own little library. In the old days, books were quite uncommon in most homes. These days, everyone has books, which is as it should be.
Gillis Lundgren, dead at 86.