It could be a scene from the movie "Helvetica." People around the world are in an uproar at the Swedish furniture store Ikea, not for the quality of its workmanship, or the prices, but the new typeface used
to display its four letter namein its catalogues.
Evidently Ikea wants to make its global image more consistent, and that means using a font that will work in all languages, and with asian characters. Verdana is also the typeface of choice on the web.
But for many Futura is a classic. And Ikea has been quite happy with it for the past 50 years.
While the typophiles are in a heated debate over the move, the bigger question is how (or whether) it will affect the store's brand reputation. It's hard to imagine that a store with such a recognizable image
(four blockish yellow letters on a bold blue building) could take a hit from a slight change in font, but comparisons have already been made to the launch of New Coke back in 1985.
There's a giant inaccuracy in this article. It's not the typeface of the logo that's being changed - that's not in Futura anyway. Futura is the typeface for everything IKEA aside from the logo.
Verdana is only the typeface of choice on the web because it is the only font in Microsoft's Core Fonts for the Web that is readable at small sizes. We would have had custom fonts on the Web years ago if not for Internet Explorer.
It's not just a preference. Verdana was not designed for print, and especially not for larger sizes. It just is not very readable on paper. Typophiles are also quite offended at the reasoning given for the change - consistent branding with a Web font. There are only 10 fonts in the Core Fonts for the Web. Imagine if the whole world used only 10 typefaces... with the rationale the Microsoft decided they were 'core fonts'.
Needing a font with international character support is a great reason to change *from* Futura, but not a reason to change *to* Verdana. The bigger foundries have been extending international support for many classic and modern typefaces in recent years.
P.S.: If it were in face the typeface for the logo, we wouldn't care quite so much.
Ross - thanks for the correction - duly noted. But in that case, it seems that the anger directed at Ikea has more to do with the lack of typeface diversity in general, and less to do with the font choices of one company. Am I right?
It seems hard to imagine that shoppers would get upset over a new typeface being used in a furniture catalogue, but obviously this has stirred up some emotion.
I should point out that I'm not a part of the design community, but the proliferation of the standard set of Windows and Mac fonts has been a bit of an annoyance for type fans for a while, yes.
It's not so much the fonts themselves though, as the use of unfitting fonts in the wrong places. An often-cited example is Comic Sans: http://vimeo.com/1994310
Matthew Carter, the designer of Verdana (though he hasn't commented on this specifically - it would be interesting to see what he says) was working to the breif that a new font should be created that's readable at small sizes on screen. Some typefaces look okay at small and at large sizes, but the best ones are designed for a certain purpose.
I think most of the annoyance comes from it being Ikea that's using Verdana in a suitation it wasn't intended for. Amateurs do it all the time, but professional designers are supposed to know better.
This issue with the typeface has to do with branding. Who designed what is not that big of deal...the REAL STORY is that IKEA's fan-base (loyal consumers) look at the brand through different eyes than non-fans: they have an emotional connection with IKEA; to them, IKEA is an emotional "friend" that is "alive" in their minds.
The fact that their consumers even took notice says something. The fact that they're in protest over it says that IKEA is a powerful brand.
Name one other brand that has been beaten up by a design change as badly as IKEA; not Coca Cola, not GE, not JC Penney, and not Wal Mart (all changed their fonts recently).
Pepsi is the only one that's come close to receiving the kind of flack that IKEA's taken.
Much ado about fonts. Now I know yet another reason for my love of print on paper in spite of my passion for online letters: the infinite possibility of typeface. It's "puddleduck wonderful". I remember the choice of Hercules for Minnesota's literacy program for young families, READ TO ME, cradled in 1979 's Saint Paul Public Library. Hercules seemed so fresh and young....it even smelled good coming off the press. This was before Microsoft and Verdana. Look at READ TO ME now. Aloha.
For many IKEA fans, IKEA represents an ideology of design that breeds strong emotional response and loyalty because it's intertwined with lifestyle and beliefs about how products should look, feel, and be experienced. That is what is threatened by it's use of Verdana. Futura gives an emotional feeling because of the way it functions in the context of that ideology. Verdana does not. If it's merely an association then Verdana will soon give those same fond feelings, but I doubt it. It's different. In fairness though Verdana is closer to Futura than ITC Lemonade.