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Did that couch in IKEA’s new catalog catch your eye? It might not be a couch at all – in fact, it’s possible that the entire room you’re poring over for inspiration was created by a graphic artist. In an effort to cut costs and increase productivity, the Swedish furniture giant has cut back on real-world production and is turning to 3D graphics to fill its pages.

This year 12 percent of IKEA’s content for the Web, catalog and brochures were rendered virtually; that number will increase to 25 percent next year.

“It’s a clever way to save money,” says Anneli Sjogren, head of photography at IKEA. “We don’t have to throw away kitchens in the dumpster after the photo shoot.” Instead, sets for entire rooms -- from kitchens to bathrooms and porches -- can be mocked up and created on a computer screen without using a single camera.

The practice allows IKEA to easily manipulate imagery to create sets for different country or cultural preferences. A kitchen shot for potential U.S. buyers might have darker colors, but “let’s say we want to sell that kitchen in Japan,” Sjogren explains. “Japanese people, like Scandinavians, like lighter hues of wood than Americans.” Instead of rebuilding the kitchen, IKEA can easily change the color and the background.

“And we can still use the same basil plant on the counter,” she says. “In 3D, the basil plant never wilts.”

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