Sunday, August 30, 2009

IKEA and Vedana

During the week, what may seem like a seemingly insignificant event, swept across the web creating a huge amount of debate and coverage. IKEA changed their font.


IKEA's signature Futura font has been replaced by the Verdana. For the last 50 years, IKEA have been using IKEA Sans, a customized version of Futura. However, for their new 2010 catalogue, IKEA have made a switch to the Verdana typeface. As it turns out, fans and designers are extremely unhappy with the change. On Wednesday, design consultant Marius Ursache even went as far as to create an online petition to stop IKEA from changing the font. So why did IKEA make the change and why are their such strong feeling over this?

In an interview with the Swedish design magazine Cap & Design, IKEA’s Ivana Hrdlickova said that IKEA's central reason for changing fonts was to allow the company to use the same typeface in all countries it currently operates in. IKEA's previous font Futura did not allow for Asian characters. As Verdana was designed for the web, it allows the company’s image to remain consistent online and in print. Unfortunately, that's also the main reason for the backlash. Verdana was never intended as a print typeface and was created purely for use on screen. Microsoft invented the font for shipping with Internet Explorer 3 in 1996.

Here are a selection of a few comments that have been made:

Simon l'Anson, a creative director in London, said "it has open, wide letterforms with lots of space between characters to aid legibility at small sizes on screen," but "it doesn't exhibit any elegance or visual rhythm when set at large sizes. It's like taking the family sedan off-road. It will sort of work, but ultimately gets bogged down."

Carolyn Fraser, a letterpress printer from Australia, said Verdana is "dumbed down and overused."

"They went cheap," said designer Iancu Barbarasa. "Designers have always thought of Ikea as one of their own, so now, in a way, the design community feels betrayed."

The issue has gained such coverage that Time Magazine have even covered the story. So what do you think? Does this change really make a noticeable difference?

The fonts in question...

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