IKEA and the Font Fiasco

ikea-logo Over the last couple of weeks, there have been a lot of rumblings on the web about a change that IKEA, the Swedish furniture store, has made to their logo and catalogues. To the average IKEA shopper, this change probably went unnoticed, but for type addicts it seems like IKEA has blasphemed.

For the last fifty years, they have used the Futura font in the logo and in their catalogues. In fact, the font they used is a specially commissioned variation of Futura known as IKEA Sans. The IKEA catalogue is one of the most printed books in the world and the 2010 edition sees Futura replaced with Verdana. Yes, plain old Verdana — the font that’s safe to use on the Web. IKEA have said the reason for the change was to simplify and merge the fonts used on the Web and in print.

 

ikea-verdana

Image Credit: Brandacadabra

However, many typographers and graphic designers are up in arms in what’s become known as Verdanagate. A Romanian designer, Marius Ursache has set up an online petition asking IKEA to “Please Get Rid Of Verdana”.

It seems even IKEA themselves are surprised at the backlash. Ivana Hrdlickova, information manager at Ikea in Stockholm, speaking to The Swedish Wire said,

We didn’t expect people to react this strong. It’s sad that some people react negative. Still, we are very glad that people care so much. But what’s important is the message, not good looking fonts.

Back To The Futura
Futura is a geometric sans-serif font designed almost 80 years ago by Paul Renner and is renowned for its near perfect shaped letters. The strokes are of even weight with tall ascenders and upper case characters based on the proportion of classical roman characters. It’s a versatile and very attractive font available in several variations including Light, Medium, Bold, Bold Oblique, Oblique, Book and Extra Bold.

futura

A little Verdana History

Verdana was designed by Matthew Carter specifically with screen-based use in mind. It is easy to read at small sizes on a computer screen due to its loose letter-spacing, large x-height. It is a font that is used every day on by web designers millions of web sites.

And I suspect that’s part of the problem for many designers. Verdana really is everywhere and on so many screens that it could be considered commonplace and when it comes to print, dare I say it, cheap.

 

verdana

So what do you think, should IKEA revert back to Futura? Does it bother you?  Is this a case of typography snobbery? Should a brand as huge as IKEA change?

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  • Futura 2000

    IKEA should change to Verdana. Futura is too good for IKEA, and they don’t really deserve to use it.

  • barrybloye

    As far as I’m aware, Verdana was created for a high level of legibility when used with small body copy on screen and not intended for use on large text or in print.

    The argument of unifying the print and web styles is not a good one. These are very different media and need different treatments.

  • http://www.pennlinepublishing.com danNL

    Why didn’t they change their logo too?

  • Stacy

    It would be nice if they mixed the two. Maybe Futura for a heading, and Verdana for the sub text. The lay person isn’t really going to notice the difference, anyhow. It’s not anything like Pepsi changing their logo. Besides, the catalogs are printed, and the ads are made. There is no going back and changing for 2010.

  • Anonymous

    We didn’t expect people to react this strong. It’s sad that some people react negative. Still, we are very glad that people care so much. But what’s important is the message, not good looking fonts.

    So basically she rubbishing the jobs of designers all over the world? Apparently it doesn’t matter what kind of feeling the font conveys as long as the message is important? Comic sans anyone?

  • http://www.fuzzfree.com Antonis

    Why should we care? I believe this post and all “complaints” are made for marketing.

  • Anonymous

    Designer douchebaggery. Anyone who cares about this gets 12 years hard labor in North Korea.

  • crych

    ‘But what’s important is the message, not good looking fonts.’

    But what’s important is the measurement, not good looking furniture.

  • http://www.halbrooktech.com mhalbrook

    Wendell and anonymous, this does have some relevance to us as designers/developers in that it shows how something seemingly so minor as a font change can have much larger effect on users.

  • hunterp

    Some people have way too much time on their hands if they’re this concerned over something that doesn’t matter. If people don’t like it, don’t look at it.

  • JaredR.

    does anyone actually shop at ikea??

  • spader725

    the people hating on the IKEA change seems to be design snobs imo. So IKEA decided to stop using a well-known traditional typeface, no need to start frivolous online petitions about it. It seems like it’s popular for design snobs to hate (an example is the stereotypical hate against Comic Sans).

  • http://www.mjswebsolutions.com type0

    Who cares

  • adam Bruce

    its not comic sans im against, its hobo.
    its got to go.

  • http://www.assemblysys.com/dataServices/index.php mniessen

    How did that font change happen without anyone reacting before it was too late! This should be a major concern for people all over the world!

    If only people complaining about that focused as much energy working on real issues…

  • http://www.magain.com/ Matthew Magain

    @Wendell I’ve removed your comment. If you want to deliver criticism, try doing so in a more professional manner next time.

  • Jessica

    Just wanting to throw this out there, but being that a number of catalogs and internet sites use Verdana because it is easy to read, one would assume that they chose it because it they wanted their catalog easy to read for their clients. The fact of the matter is that a catalog has very fine print in it and Verdana is going to be easy to read in the catalog. Also, I know many of you will be put out by this but the average home catalog reader isn’t going to care two figs about the type or who created it, provided it is legible. As much as designers and font junkies like myself think it is common, it is going to be used in this catalog and any number of other venues. On a more personal note, I prefer to use Verdana when adding captions and text to photos. I have some 8000+ pay and free use fonts stored on my external hard drive and Verdana and Comic Sans are used the majority of times.

  • http://bitdepth.wordpress.com/ mmj

    How ironic that this whole website is in Verdana ;)

    I do agree, that the text on that 2010 catalogue looks a bit ‘cheaper’.

    I should point out that there appears to be an error in the article: the Ikea logo has not changed, and was never Futura – it is only the font used in the catalogue, not the logo, that was Futura or has changed.

  • http://www.tyssendesign.com.au Tyssen

    Who cares?

    The 4164 people who have signed the petition obviously.

  • http://www.magain.com/ Matthew Magain

    @mmj If we decided to publish every SitePoint book in Verdana, then that’s perhaps a different story. :)

    You’re correct though—it’s everything but the logo. I’ve updated the post.

  • jerichvc

    But what’s important is the message, not good looking fonts

    I like that. Of all the 4000+ who petitioned, am not surprised that small percent – maybe 1% of those are not ikea clients/customers at all. Ikea doesn’t sell fonts. So its not a big deal.

  • Oliver Ruehl

    Oh us poor people of the 21st Century.
    Us poor losers. Use ppor slackers that need to be entertained and have to bark out an opinion about everything.
    Is there nothing else we care about?

    This is really sad.
    Think about it. Think about it again.

    There is more about this world than fonts.
    What if IKEA change the font to Comic Sans? Will you kill yourself or have problems sleeping?

    What’s wrong with you? Get out and take a walk. Talk to your grandfather and ask him what real problems are.
    I’m sad.

  • Lucid

    You people really need to get laid…

  • Anonymous

    Many comments here seem to be missing the point.

    The concern that this change brings to light is that it was made “..to simplify and merge the fonts used on the Web and in print.” That means a group of print designers with many thousands of available typeface choices (including one that’s already part of their very strong brand) felt compelled to compromise and settle for one that’s OK for the web.

    Granted, it’s just IKEA. But if this were to become a trend, it makes a pretty strong statement about the importance of usage rights for internet fonts.

    The limited availability of web fonts has affected the design of a printed book. That means it could start to affect other media. And that’s the point.

  • http://www.webdesign-gm.co.uk/cheltenham-web-design.php TomBradshaw

    Futura is class, Verdana is naff, that’s just my opinion

  • kevin

    1. the manager who made the,
    “But what’s important is the message, not good looking fonts”
    comment is gonna hear it from the higher-ups. crych said it already, but, from a business standpoint, you can’t say that you don’t care if something you put out “looks good” if you are trying to sell things that “look good”.

    2. everyone hating on people who care about this: i’m sure you care about the “big issues” but i imagine you chose between a few restaurants last time you ate out. you have opinions on “little stuff” too. it is possible to care about more than one thing in life. so if people care enough about a company to voice an opinion about them going in the verdana direction, just let them do it in peace.

  • on the other hand

    On the other hand, this represents a push to make the look of what they’re putting out more unified and consistent, which is good marketing. If we could easily use Futura on the web, perhaps they would have gone the other way. Fact is, if you want to be consistent, you use the same fonts across the board, and the web is the limiting factor.

    …and if you’re going to use Verdana for some of the type, it should be the only sans serif. Users/readers may not be able to articulate it, but the inconsistency of using different fonts next to each other that are similar but just not quite the same leaves a subconscious impression that something is not right, and because they can’t tell that it’s the fonts, that feeling gets subtly applied to the company instead.

  • laurentlasalle

    You do realize that this website, and all your comments, are displayed using Verdana right? [For the record : I hate Verdana]

  • Anonymous

    For a company that’s all about selling a style, it seems like a weak choice to use “the plain chocolate iced cream” of fonts in print. Altering your print materials to match the lowest common web denominator is a silly design rationale. That’s like saying “we’re going to print the catalog in multiple sizes so that it’s available in the same aspect ratio that each user is used to seeing on our website”. Different mediums call for different designs.

  • http://www.studio-gecko.com/ XLCowBoy

    I love how the non-educated “designers” say Comic Sans is alright. I pray you people don’t offer design as a paid service to clients – effectively, you’re just ripping them off.

    The reverse issue here isn’t the switch from Futura to Verdana in print: it’s the fact that they had to in order to unify their design language. The reason why they went that route is because Futura isn’t available as a web safe font.

    IF more fonts were available on the web, IKEA would probably go the opposite route, and use Futura on their website in order to unify their design language.

    What this should be is a wake-up call to font designers: get with the times, and start allowing fonts to be used on the web.

  • Grant Bissett

    err it’s clearly fake you guys.

  • Stevie D

    @XLCowBoy:

    IF more fonts were available on the web, IKEA would probably go the opposite route, and use Futura on their website in order to unify their design language.

    It isn’t just a question of what fonts are available on the web – there’s nothing to stop them specifying Futura, other similar common fonts then Verdana and a general sans-serif – that way the large number of people with Futura installed would see it in that font.

    No, the problem is that most fonts, even if they are available, are not idea for web pages. The reason why Verdana is so popular on the web is because it was specifically designed to be readable on-screen at a small size. Most fonts are designed to be printed, so trying to fit them into a 12-pixel grid means they can’t retain the quality and legibility that they have on paper.

  • MonkeyMan

    They are able to provide “New Lower Prices” with the “Same Great Quality” with this change… seriously though; only designers care about this minimal change in the grand scheme of things – get a life, go design something to feel better.

  • paul m

    i think what inside the book is important omg whats wrong with these people u see its ikea so what even if the write it backwards u will recognize it so whats the point. GET A LIFE

  • James

    IKEA should sell a self assembly font… why should they have all the fun?

  • Dorsey

    Not being an artistic type, I couldn’t care less about the font, even though I do find some catalogs and web sites very odd and difficult to decipher. I liken this to listening to someone speak with an accent – as long as I can understand what they say, I’m happy. Yes, I’d prefer proper grammar correctly spoken, but the goal is communication, not elocution.

    Ikea did the right thing by listening to their customers to whom this does matter, without offending their other customers. Sounds like a winning strategy to me.

  • The brazilian Edu

    With futura or verdana, my wife will always love ikea. I’m pretty sure she won’t even perceive the difference between these fonts. But if they, instead of verdana, chose something like shelley or mistral, she would say “oh, cool!”.
    I hate her.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t believe the level of press this has received. I personally feel that IKEA should do whatever the heck they want to do – I mean it’s their choice and while everyone is entitled to an opinion on the matter, taking it to a petition status is just ridiculous. Shouldn’t we be doing something about climate change rather than messing around with this!? I mean LET’S FOCUS ON THE BIG ISSUES HERE PEOPLE.

  • ikea fan

    IKEA do so many great things for the environment and their products have made shopping for furiture a fun experience. I think the ‘moaners’ obviously have too much time on their hands and probably don’t shop there anyway?
    As one of the thousands of people who shop at IKEA, I wanted to defend IKEA and as much as they would like to please everyone, it just can’t be done.

  • Anonymous

    To designers and typographers this is quite a big issue as it goes against everything they are taught about legibility and correct font use. To all the non designers ‘hating’ and saying designers need to chill out and get a life – please don’t be so dismissive. You’re probably not aware of all the complex decisions that are made in order for a design to flow and be really easy to read and understand. Sweating over the little details is our job. It’s what we are paid to do, and it’s what we care about!

    Sure Verdana still gets the message across, but there are so many other options that are better suited to the job. If a footballer went onto the pitch wearing ballet pumps – he’d still be able to play, but a pair of Nike T90 boots would be far better!

  • canuck

    in soviet russia, font changes you!

  • http://bitdepth.wordpress.com/ mmj

    I saw the Ikea 2010 catalogue “in the flesh” the other night and I don’t think it is nearly as much of a big deal as it’s been made out to be, or even that I thought it would be.

    For a start, the only Verdana in it was rather small – the cover, while having the same photo, did not have the large Verdana text as it does in the screenshot accompanying this post. Differences between Australia and other markets perhaps? At any rate, the Verdana was used only for the small text. Overall the design and appeal of the catalogue was as expected for a multinational budget furniture store.

    I suggest that Verdana is not a bad font and that its bad reputation among designers only comes from its overuse; similar to designers hating Comic Sans, it is a font that it seen so much, and is used so much for no good reason, that it is cliche. Designers notice fonts all the time, and fonts that are overused become repulsive for their unoriginality.

  • Anonymous

    Actually MMJ, you’re wrong. It has nothing to do with it being a common font and everything to do with it being a font designed specifically for small typesizes. Anything bigger than magazine type and it just becomes clumsy.

  • http://bitdepth.wordpress.com/ mmj

    Actually MMJ, you’re wrong. It has nothing to do with it being a common font and everything to do with it being a font designed specifically for small typesizes

    Sorry, didn’t realise you could speak on behalf of all designers. As for myself, I don’t think Verdana is a bad font, or that it is only good when small. It’s far from clumsy. Being designed for legibility on screen is not the same as looking bad at larger sizes. After seeing the catalogue in person I think there’s nothing wrong with the way the font looks.

  • Karen

    This is ridiculous- all these complaints just for using a different font. Do people have nothing else to do these days than to scrutinise fonts used by companies?? Is this what the world is reduced to?? This is ludicrous behaviour!

  • Ian

    Can someone tell me if Verdana is available in a multitude of different weights and styles like Futura? When we had this ‘must choose one font for website and print’ argument in our company a key point was whether Verdana could be easily (and cheaply!) obtained in various weights like you find with Gill Sans (our alternative).

    In the case of Ikea is sounds like they are just using the standard weight font for the body text only. I wonder what they are using for large headings etc. inside the catalogue. Maybe they just made it in Word and pressed CTRL+B LOL.

  • Fogg

    In my pantheon of great type designers Paul Renner is right alongside Matthew Charter. But Matt is certainly the younger which contradicts the Fred Goudy idiom “it seems that the old guys stole all the best tricks”. Mr Charter has consistently scored working the tough media such as telephone books and now the web. Prissy classicicts hold ya tongue.

  • robert

    who gives a monkey’s?

  • Anonymous

    @Fogg – I’ve not heard of this Charter fellow, but Matther Carter is definitely up there in the Top Ten of type designers ;)

  • Shady

    @JaredR – was that a joke? Ikea Crush.
    You should try shopping at Giltbrook Ikea on a Saturday afternoon – it’s like everyone in the East Midlands that has access to a credit card or overdraft are there just begging Ikea staff to rip the imaginary money from their clammy hands.

    @Tyssen “Who cares? The 4164 people who have signed the petition obviously.”
    I would wager that the number of people who don’t care will be approximately several orders of magnitude times infinity more than the people who do. It doesn’t matter if 5,000 people care if 5,000,000 *don’t*