IKEA goes with Verdana

Raumschiff's picture

It's true.

IKEA abandons ~50 years of Futura and Century Schoolbook for … Verdana.
In an interview with swedish design magazine CAP&DESIGN the reason for the change is to be able to use the same font i all countries, including asian countries. Also they want to be able to give the same visual impression both in print and the web.

For me it's a sad day.
What are your thoughts on this matter?

mili's picture

Oh, but the front page is Verdana.

rkiga's picture

Woops!

Weird that this page is in Verdana: http://typophile.com/forum

But, it's definitely Georgia here, I stand corrected.

tiffanyrooprai's picture

It's quite true, IKEA Intersystems owns the IKEA Sans, Script and Serif fonts used throughout the company. The switch to Verdana was to save money - stores paid to use the IKEA fonts. This makes little sense to those of us who work in the design departments at IKEA. That we pay for our own font useage on a font we already own seems suspect. But IKEA does not always make sense when it comes to decision making in their retail outlets. Recently they changed uniform standards to the yellow shirt for every worker in the store except the cafeteria staff. This was to showcase a larger sales presence at a time when sales were slumping and they're cutting back the sales staff to less than 20 hours a week and eliminating middle management positions. Now we have designer co-workers who once wore inconspicuous white t-shirts as well as logistics and maintenance co-workers (who wore blue) in the iconic yellow polos. Mind you, not a single one of us is actually trained in sales, and these departments work on a regular schedule. So, for appearance sake, now during regular operating hours stores look full of sales workers, most of whom have to refer customers to "a person wearing yellow who works in sales."

Add to that, the switch to Verdana has to cost the company millions of dollars - money better spent elsewhere (we're not getting bonuses this year). We have to re-print every single price tag, banner and rack label in each store. There are new letterheads and business cards for every manager to pay for. We aim to go green on a corporate level yet reams and reams of paper is required for the simplest of switches within a store. We have hundreds of stores!

Then again, in my years at IKEA I have found it to be a very confusing company. On one hand, our store rakes in a quarter million dollars on weekdays. Double that on weekends. Yet there are more times than not that policies we hear about make it seem like the company is operating on a whim. Not to mention, every time we get a new country president we are mandated to make the aesthetic changes he or she deems are important - on a personal level, not based in sales. We make change and hope the sales follow.

It's exhausting.

Sam M's picture

I rather think verdana is a good choice for IKEA. IKEA's brand has very little to do with "design" and everything to do with exuding affordability and pragmatic, if temporary, solutions. Futura might just be too upscale for their brand during the recession, and the jarring awkwardness of Verdana in a print catalog might just go a long way in seperating IKEA from pricier competitors such as West-elm and Crate & Barrel.

Verdana is almost "corporate grunge" in this climate.

nitrofurano's picture

Verdana sucks even as display typeface!

nitrofurano's picture

@mehallo Verdana is not only overexposed - it's hugelly unbalanced as well, and deeply plenty of hurting naive mistakes...

oskarsve's picture

Someone mentioned Lucas De Groot's Calibri as a good alternative to Verdana.
To me it seems to tick all the boxes for IKEA that they found in Verdana such as glyph coverage, price and accessibility is this true?

Si_Daniels's picture

> it’s hugelly unbalanced as well, and deeply plenty of hurting naive mistakes...

Well, I once saw a t-shirt that said "Who died and made you Matthew Carter?"

Si_Daniels's picture

A couple of more recent articles worth taking a peek at...

This one quotes Chuck Bigelow (of Lucida fame)

http://correspondents.theatlantic.com/edward_tenner/2009/09/futura_shock...

And this one in the Guardian is quite good, answering the question "why should we care?"

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2009/sep/02/ikea-verdana-font

Bert Vanderveen's picture

We should be grateful that they didn’t choose Comic Sans…

. . .
Bert Vanderveen BNO

Si_Daniels's picture

Don't bother reading this thread! All the best bits have been pulled out and posted here...

http://www.tampabay.com/features/humaninterest/word-for-word-verdana-ike...

Sindre's picture

Don’t bother reading this thread!

A little late telling me that now, isn't it?

Has anyone been to a fully Verdanized IKEA-store yet, by the way? I didn't see much of it at all in Oslo.

Sindre's picture

Double post, sorry.

Si_Daniels's picture

Sorry, if only typophile supported the email innovation known as "top-posting"

>A little late telling me that now, isn’t it?

Sindre's picture

I was only joking. But yes, the possibility of adding information up top would improve things. But I guess it would be misused -- especially in a thread like this.

Si_Daniels's picture

It was a joke, but a way to skip to the "new" posts would be great :-)

borgitac's picture

Definitely cheapens their look. Guess they are trying to communicate that they've lowered some of their prices?? But it just makes the brand look cheap. Stupid design choice. They should bring Futura back.

Jean Klare's picture

Reducing costs is a returning argument in the choice for Verdana. But it should be obvious to anyone who has a basic grasp on how typography works that this is a blatant misunderstanding.

A simple test shows that Verdana is not only inadequate for print, has questionable readbility off-line, but it also runs very uneconomically. It takes at least 10-20% extra space compared to its predecessor Futura.

Considering Ikea produces tens of millions of pages of print and unthinkable advertising inches worldwide, it is clear this will cost a lot of extra money if copywriters are not instructed to lose more than 20% of their copy from now on.

I my view the choice for Verdana is typographically unsound aswell as economically stupid, but also questionable from an environmental standpoint.

dezcom's picture

"t takes at least 10-20% extra space compared to its predecessor Futura."

Not if you set it at a smaller point size and negatively track it to something reasonable for print.

ChrisL

radiantice's picture

This is pretty interesting...the future of Verdana enchancements

http://www.ascendercorp.com/pr/2009-09-08/

postmodern's picture

Long live Futura, down with fonts with little integrity.

Si_Daniels's picture

“little integrity” - a strange choice of words.

in•teg•ri•ty [ in téggrətee ]

noun

Definition:

1. possession of firm principles: the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or professional standards

2. completeness: the state of being complete or undivided (formal) the territorial integrity of the nation

3. wholeness: the state of being sound or undamaged (formal) public confidence in the integrity of the voting process

I think Verdana trumps Futura on all of these definitions. Perhaps lack of available weights has some impact on 2. Is that what you meant?

P A Hardy's picture

Well I would call myself part of the broad public - albeit a relatively type-aware representative. And I am interested. And anyway, surely if it's only experts who are commenting then their opinion carries more weight? If it's only health & dietetic experts who declare your food product too sugary/fatty, does that mean it doesn't matter?

Ironically my work colleague recently produced some internal identifier labels for our work process & typed them in Verdana. I thought they were OK for the job but looked a bit clunky. After reading this thread I realised the problem with them was the kerning

dezcom's picture

"down with fonts with little integrity"

Verdana does an excellent job of working perfectly in the environment for which it was designed. It solves the design problem of readable text on screen quite well. In so doing, there had to be compromises made in the areas of print text and display. To me, therefore, it has great integrity. It does EXACTLY what it was asked to do. Think of it like Braille. It works for those who are unsighted and know how to read it but is pretty lousy as a print text for the sighted non-Braille reader.

ChrisL

Si_Daniels's picture

Another interesting LA Times spin on the saga...

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-neil8-2009sep08,0,3168538.column

...seems as if the whole thing was a social engineering experiment by IKEA and/or their robot overlords.

Quincunx's picture

When everything is said and done, pros and cons, good arguments and bad arguments... it still looks stupid.

Florian Hardwig's picture

Nick said I’ve been “outraged” for years that […] Verdana doesn’t have Light weights

Soon to come! (The availability for web design is another story, of course.)

Si_Daniels's picture

>The availability for web design is another story, of course

This suggests a certain level of availability.

"The Ascender, Carter & Cone and Font Bureau project intends to optimize the Verdana and Georgia fonts for many new applications, including extended text formatting on websites and in print."

BlueStreak's picture

Verdana and Georgia would be my sans-serif and serif fonts of choice if I was told I could only have one of each. So I'm delighted that Ascender is extending the family. However the semantics of "availability" are important based on distribution. If the extended family is a commercial release for a fee, which seems certain, it won't be fully available on the client/receiver side. Without EOT, @font-face, or some universal solution to distribution it won't have the impact that it should.

Until that universal solution comes along, I'll keep playing the theme song for it from Phineas and Ferb:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbatIfRg6MU

Si_Daniels's picture

I don't want to pre-empt what the parties have in mind, as it's still early days. However, if you look at the Web fonts, or more recently the ClearType collection fonts, it takes a very long time to get to the installed base you'd need to be "Web/IKEA safe" even if you give stuff away for free.

mili's picture

There was an enjoyable radio programme called Aristoteleen kantapää on the Finnish YLE Radio 1 yesterday, where typography in general and its importance for reading was discussed and the local typography guru, designer, teacher and writer Markus Itkonen interviewed. It was part of a long running series that concentrates on Finnish language and its uses, phrases etc. Since the subject was introduced with the IKEA case, my guess is that typography got this rare mention because of the fuss. The presenter talked about Verdana and Futura, their history and designers, why Verdana is called Verdana etc before moving to more general approach, including a brief history of type and the difference between serif and sans.

The show can be heard as an podcast later on or here:

http://blogit.yleradio1.yle.fi/aristoteleenkantapaa

mili's picture

I should add that the radio show mentioned above is in Finnish.

Rob O. Font's picture

> If the extended family is a commercial release for a fee, [...], it won’t be fully available on the client/receiver side.

I think I hear what you're saying, but on the other 'extreme', if a font has a fee, it does not prevent the font from being 'fully available on the client/receiver side' for web use.

>Without EOT, @font-face, or some universal solution to distribution it won’t have the impact that it should.

@font-face is the current most advanced universal solution to provide font fidelity for web design and web use, but I think it is intended for the opposite of distribution unless you mean distribution of processing.

>I don’t want to pre-empt what the parties have in mind

Me neither.

>if you look at the Web fonts, or more recently the ClearType collection fonts...[it takes] a very long time to get to the installed base you’d need to be “Web/IKEA safe...”

The model of putting the fonts on every personal computer, if not dying, is leaving either horizontally or vertically.

Those CT fonts wouldn't work for IKEA or most other mega media companies, though I encourage you to try. They are not agates, they look very particular at large sizes and are not easy matches, size-independantly, with the limited number of Asian fonts that are also "web safe".

And, I would call choosing Verdana for all corporate communications IKEAcheap/Web safe, an important difference, just to be word safe. ;) The only thing IKEA could be missing is serving, but they are not able to count entirely on installed fonts either, Are they?

> ...even if you give stuff away for free.

...that's a dying model, isn't it? The new model is to 'serve' fonts 'for free.'

Cheers!

TBiddy's picture

No kidding...I just got back from the How In-HOWse Design Conference. At my table there was a nice gentleman from Ikea. We introduced ourselves and I said something to the effect of them being the topic du jour amongst designers. Turns out that this man, was THE gentleman that made "the Verdana decision."

Gotta respect him for sticking to his guns, but I did tell him that as a type nerd he was never gonna win me over. :)

His reasons made sense from a business perspective—I think sometimes how your brand is "perceived" doesn't sink in until after you've made a drastic change.

chasenyc's picture

There was a small piece about this in WNYC(NPR for New York City) along with some other interesting typography info. You can here it here: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/episodes/2009/09/11/segments/140481

Description of the segment:
"Our latest Please Explain is all about typefaces and typography. Typeface designer Jonathan Hoefler, type designer and president of Hoefler & Frere-Jones and Steven Heller, co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts and author of the VISUALS column for the New York Times Book Review, will explain how typefaces are created and why typography is important to communication and design."

johndberry's picture

It's worth pointing out, in the context of this wide-ranging discussion, that Matthew Carter and David Berlow are working on extending the Verdana (and Georgia) type family, under the auspices of Ascender Corp. Though not, so far, in the direction of specifically "display" versions. The new weights & widths should, at least, give a little more flexibility to designers using these type families, whether at Ikea or anywhere else.

By the way, I confess that I don't see any particular resemblance between Verdana and Frutiger. Or at least no more resemblance than you'd find between various old-style serif romans, or certain chancery italics.

John

BlueStreak's picture

David Berlow wrote, “...if a font has a fee, it does not prevent the font from being ’fully available on the client/receiver side’ for web use.”

Thanks for the reply. And yes I was referring to @font-face as a means of “distribution of processing”. Are you saying that @font-face is what will make the new Verdana and Georgia fully available? My previous comment was based on @font-face not being fully implemented yet. However based on the Berlow and Daniels comments I think I see where this is headed and see much more potential than I had.

BlueStreak's picture

Point of clarification; @font-face not fully implemented on the client side.

praitsidis's picture

I can see the point on the web but not for the print. Surely the can get custom languages made for them in Futura. Given the choice, I would've gone with Tahoma...

Rob O. Font's picture

>Are you saying that @font-face is what will make the new Verdana and Georgia fully available?

Well, those faces up to now have been available where MS wants them available, which seems to be the Mac and Windows. Ascender's license with MS makes them available to anyone willing to license them for 'normal' desktop distribution, and the latest efforts are intended to make them much more available for web serving.

To clarify John Berry's statement slightly, the Verdana "Pro" versions e.g., (the current name of the new series), are not specifically made in the direction of “display” versions. However, the blacker and weightier condensed styles are being prepared somewhat independent of their appearance as text faces, which is different from the originals as far as I know.

Cheers!

jdkleckner1989's picture

Ok I saw this post a while back. I think this is sad that they are switching to accommodate a default font. Seriously, a logo is supposed to be an identity mark and switching to a default logo is making a statement. In my opinion, this is so microsoft works. Its an amateur move and really show bad on IKEAs creative thinking aspects.
So this move is bad.

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