Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ikea betrays design community and its own brand personality with use of an ugly, stupid font.

According to a recent story in TIME, the design community feels betrayed over Ikea’s switch to the Verdana typeface, and is ranting about it. Some may find it hard to believe that changing a type font is worthy of a global backlash, but when you think about it, graphic designers the world over do have a legitimate gripe. Verdana? That Microsoft font? The one used everywhere for the text on every Web site in creation?

Ikea’s signature typeface, a customized version of Futura, has long been an integral part of that brand. But effective with its recently mailed 2010 catalog, they’ve switched to switched to what it sees as a more functional typeface: Verdana. In the process, it has provoked an instantaneous global backlash, the kind that can only happen on the Internet. Ikea fans from Tokyo to Melbourne have ranted - "Ikea, stop the Verdana madness!" "Words can't describe my disgust" and "Horrific." Carolyn Fraser, a letterpress printer in Melbourne, Australia, sums up the problem quite well. "Verdana was designed for the limitations of the Web — it's dumbed down and overused. It's a bit like using Lego to build a skyscraper, when steel is clearly a superior choice." 

Ikea spokeswoman Monika Gocic was quoted - "It's more efficient and cost-effective. Plus, it's a simple, modern-looking typeface."

Efficient? Cost-effective? What about remaining true to your brand’s personality? I have news for you Ms. Gocic. Verdana is an ugly font, period. And a font created by Microsoft? Yuk. Don't you feel like you have to take a shower, Ikea?

This mess reminds me of an old episode of “This Old House” in which Bob Vila was observing an old school plaster craftsman on a job. He asked the man if he was going to finish it off with a little sandpaper to smooth it out. The perturbed man simply replied in his New England dialect – “Sandpaper, Bob?”

 So it would be appropriate to ask, in this case, “Verdana, Ikea?” What were you thinking?


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