Lyndsay Rush
Updated September 04, 2014

This is not your average Photoshopping scandal, but it’s a kerfuffle nonetheless. It’s being reported that the Swedish furniture maker—and #1 instigator of fights between couples who have just moved in together—has been Photoshopping their product catalogs.

According to IKEA’s IT manager, the company has been digitally manipulating up to 75% of the products in their annual catalog since the year Britney Spears married Kevin Federline (is there a correlation? WHO CAN TELL). That’s 2004, for the layman.

The reason behind the digital deception actually makes a lot of sense. Instead of shipping furniture and staging it for a photo shoot, the company saves money by creating high-quality renderings that have the feel of a lived in space. Basically, they’ve trained a team of tech wizards to rethink the way products are displayed, using digital rendering techniques

We’ve gotten used to the outrageous manipulation of women’s bodies in ads that send distorted, damaging messages about beauty standards. Thigh gaps and shaved-off body parts are not okay. Digitally created chairs? That’s, well, not the worst thing we’ve ever heard. The difference, I think, with Photoshopping (or recreating using 3D technology) furniture, is that it seems to be mostly a logistical and cost-saving tactic, not one meant to deceive or mislead. I mean, when it comes to IKEA furniture, we all pretty much know what we’re getting right? Discounted, build-it-yourself furniture. If the catalogs were manipulating the images to imply that the quality was higher than it is in actuality, then maybe we should blow the whistle.

But even if IKEA staged its products in a more traditional manner, the images still probably wouldn’t look like they do when we build them ourselves—aka, poorly. Mostly this story seems to be an issue of traditional photography versus CGI. Is the former dying out in favor of the latter? Perhaps. At least, the company is (finally) being transparent about their practices.

Way more disturbing was the time back in 2012, when IKEA was blasted for Photoshopping women out of their Saudi Arabian catalog. The company apologized for that deeply disturbing screw up. But the latest Photoshopping news? That might just be the way things are rolling as we continue to hurdle to the future. Now if IKEA could come up with a way for us to magically CGI furniture in our own homes instead of building anything, that would be amazing.