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?

Joe Pemberton's picture

Still blowing up on Twitter...

modulist's picture

Ouch! My apologies to Matthew Carter, but Verdana is no display font. Anyone using it above 18 point should have their eyes examined.

Dan Gayle's picture

@James

"the warmth and cheer of Futura"

I would never have associated one of the most geometric of all typefaces with either of those terms, but okay :)

There is one additional part to the Verdana/Tahoma family: Nina. But again, designed for an even smaller monitor than a computer!

Dan Gayle's picture

@modulist
Why apologize to Carter? He knows very well that Verdana isn't a display font, he's a freakin' genius when it comes to type. If he were standing here in front of us, he'd probably question IKEA also :p

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Verdana Fail!

Joe Pemberton's picture

Verdana ships in flat packages and the customer has to assemble it. Makes perfect sense for Ikea.

plainclothes's picture

- - -
“the warmth and cheer of Futura”

I would never have associated one of the most geometric of all typefaces with either of those terms, but okay :)
- - -

but that's the beauty of Futura! rather than pure geometry, it references the underlying classical skeleton. stretched to the bold weight and used large (as in Ikea's more attractive past) it's a perfect fit for Ikea's contemporary modernist focus.

Nick Shinn's picture

...Carter designed Verdana clearly inspired by Frutiger...

I don't think he works that way.
He designs to the brief.

paul d hunt's picture

mmmmmmmmmm Verdana! who needs @font-face? Verdana + Georgia = typographic bliss. the world only needs 2 fonts (for Latin anyway). >^D
Although i might have preferred the slightly narrower Tahoma...

WType's picture

I wonder how does Matthew Carter feel about this...?

Oak's picture

Right on, James. Verdana's numerals in display size just look amateurish. I think Calibri would have been a much better choice.

Marius Ursache's picture

I'm still shocked. Outdoor ads have made it everywhere, and the new 2009 catalogue is set in Verdana.

I put up a petition to Ikea. Maybe if enough designers sign it, they'll have the decency to listen, and revert to Ikea Sans & Serif or at least get a decent print typeface.

Sign the petition here:
http://www.petitiononline.com/IKEAVERD/petition.html

Martijn van Berkel's picture

Ikea, you suck.
Bring Ikea Sans back, or take something else.

Kind regards,
Martijn van Berkel

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Dang. A petition. This is getting serious.

Stingray's picture

Verdana. Ugh.

axian's picture

Verdana... so graceful as a display font.

Ed_Aranda's picture

Futura was much better for them.

blank's picture

We really need something like the Razzies for graphic design.

santosvega21's picture

It had to have taken some serious consideration, though I am sure we can all agree the end result and the reasoning for such a change on one hand can make sense, the web friendly excuse I personally cannot overlook if I wanted to. Brand is brand no matter where it may be. This idea that they would like the typeface to be consistent both on and off the web just opens the doors for other companies to destroy a good thing. Let's not loose sight of the experience. The internet is not all of it with Ikea. Not even close. Think the product. The experience matters most at POS. Why change to run consistent with a web friendly face? Is furniture digital now?

[ If it ain't broke,... ]

Santos Vega
Graphic Design / Illustration
www.santosvega.com
305/766/9244
santosvega21@hotmail.com

BlueStreak's picture

Ravel asked, “Why do you think this is subversive? It is subversive for people who understand typography, and who will discuss it; end-user, customer will hardly even notice. For most of end-users it is just letters.”

Customers not noticing or caring while designers are all in a twitter is exactly why I think it’s subversive. It’s just like when a client demands the use of Times New Roman and you use Palatino and they never notice, but love your work.

I’m very amused by this uproar. I’m speculating that most of the people in a twittfit would have never noticed it was Verdana being used if it weren’t pointed out to them. Yet they are voicing strong opinions. (I’m excluding the well versed old-schoolers like Nick and Chris who I firmly believe have a good grasp of their reasoning beyond it merely being a screen font, and probably don’t twitter either.)

For me there is great irony here. Simon has this one pegged. When the print font is used on the web no one bats an eye. Where is the outrage when someone uses Futura or Univers on the web or use any of the other fonts developed before screen displays? They weren’t intended for use on a screen. And then how many other text fonts have been used as a display face in recent history with no one caring?

Yes IKEA could’ve and should’ve used another face. But I’m glad they made this move to provide me hours of entertainment.

Si_Daniels's picture

Nice to see typophile back up!

The font is really the least of their problems…

http://www.google.com/news/search?ned=us&hl=en&q=Ikea

...death-trap blinds, an Israeli boycott and Chinese folks using their store as a hotel.

And then there’s this…

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/04/01/steve_jobs_joins_ikea/

;-)

Nick Shinn's picture

Where is the outrage when someone uses Futura or Univers on the web or use any of the other fonts developed before screen displays?

I've been "outraged" for years that Georgia doesn't have a display size for the web, and that Verdana doesn't have Light weights for the web. The readability of display size was something that was overlooked in the design of web technology, and yet that technology readily permits display size, with the type looking extremely horsey. Times is the best "web" face for display size, because the serifs have some sharpness.

aa101's picture

I use to work for a global online company. Any design and marketing materials we produce ended up using Arial/Verdana because of the same reasons. We had to produce in 12 languages under one universal template.

I would guess that it's a very high up upper management decision to cut costs/time for the process and an easier way to follow up outsourced projects to other designers or local offices.

I don't really care what font they use really... not sure why all the fuss and emotional attachment to this brand. To me IKEA is a huge commercial (less on the creative) practical entity.

Verdana is widely seen and in our culture more than we like it to, overused and is in everyone's homes (internet browsers/OS system). So in spirit, Verdana is much like Ikea.

TwoWicky's picture

An international company catering to just Europe alone has to deal with over twenty different languages, many of which have their own specific character sets. If you take into account that you also have to support Russian and Greek, that alone rules out a lot of fonts you can choose from.

The alternative is having to deal with different typefaces for different languages, but that is a pain and doesn't solve the real problem at hand. The fact is, there is a huge lack of fonts that support a large set of international character sets.

So faced with similar problem I imagined Ikea had, I did some research into this not so long ago and came to the conclusion that Microsoft is the only one that consistantly supports all the different character sets in their fonts. Another plus is that they are also adapted to screen viewing. The only downside is that per typeface, they only provide four fonts: regular, italic, bold and bold italic.

The most usuable typeface I found for Europe was Myriad Pro which does offer a wider range of weights. But if you have to deal with Arabic or Asian languages, you can also rule this one out.

So if you want to go global and remain consistant everywhere, the Microsoft typefaces are the only viable choice at the moment. I can understand it is a mammoth undertaking, but I just wish they would affor a larger set of weights and that also the other foundries would follow suit.

nlx's picture

WOw hey don't have the money to ask a typographer to design a custom face ?

Thats pretty much patehtic !

Matt Stanford's picture

Strangely evolutionary approach - a different typeface over the same images. I don't see what Verdana gives that Futura didn't, aside from [something different]. The kerning issue is a problem, as is the already mentioned warmth at display size (or lack thereof).

I like Futura.

BlueStreak's picture

Excellent points Nick. Maybe all of the uproar will prompt IKEA to commission a project to expand the font, or create a custom solution. I would say maybe it will prompt Microsoft to do so, but then there's that reality vs. fantasy thing.

As it is implemented, this seems to me to be a classic example of letting the form follow the function. Using Verdana is a highly functional and instant solution to their situation. Other than Helvetica I don't think there is another choice.

As to the thought that of course IKEA has the money to commission a custom face, I'm sure they do but the people that make those decisions within the company don't sit around sipping coffee talking about what font they are going to use for promotional material and ads. In fact that begs the question, how much revenue will they potentially lose by using the low/no cost solution versus the added costs of an expensive custom font or the continued use of different fonts for multiple regions? Other than typophiles does anyone else notice or care?

Nick Shinn's picture

...Microsoft is the only one that consistantly supports all the different character sets in their fonts.

However, a number of foundries (not Adobe, Microsoft and Apple, which aren't foundries) have recently released "Euro" fonts that support Latin, Greek and Cyrillic encoding. My effort: The Modern Suite. Admittedly, foundry fonts are unlikely to be hinted for PC screens, but this is an aesthetic issue that may be compared against the print shortcomings of the "web" fonts.

I don't think this is the real issue for Ikea, which seems to be that in the holy trinity of product criteria, Price and Convenience have trumped Quality. That's a legitimate decision for Ikea; I'm suggesting it may weaken the brand--not for reasons of typographic aesthetics per se; in that sense, "Quality" means the quality of being distinctive.

joeclark's picture

> Nice to see Typophile back up!

This is what happens when a site that is (a) reliant on Flash and (b) barely tended to in the first place gets MeFried and Fireballed on the same day (among other links).


Joe Clark
http://joeclark.org/

johnnydib's picture

I took these pictures before I realized it was Verdana. And that Futura catalogue in the pictures was really one of the reasons I wanted to become a graphic designer.
Flickr Set

I was a bit shocked a couple of weeks ago when I was looking at their catalogue but I just thought the local designer screwed up here in Toronto. It didn't even cross my mind that someone would advise the company to make a change like this.

The "web" reason given for the change doesn't even hold. Go to their website and look at how many times Verdana is used as an anti-alias image (doesn't it kill the whole purpose of using a web font?). But I don't blame the web designers because who in the world wants a dull html website that looks like 1995?

The "consistency" reason given isn't working any better. I think we all agree the IKEA brand was pretty consistent at least up until the "change". But it is now during that transition that the inconsistency will occur. Graphic devices and headlines designed using IKEA Sans are still in use in print and on the web. Wasn't it the job of the design firm that suggested the "change" to redesign all these little logos?

I feel this is almost unethical on the part of the design firm. I don't think they added any value with the changes they made. It wasn't even a rebranding; they obviously wanted to maintain the image of the company (I don't know how to describe it but it's basically the IKEA image). The layout of the catalogue is maintained (white backdrop for the most part, big black headlines, bold vs regular in the item descriptions and body text. So the only thing the design firm has done here is take one successful element out.

Maybe an added value was the cost of design on the long term? And Nick you said "Price and Convenience have trumped Quality" but I was under the impression that they can distribute their proprietary font to their service providers at no cost. Or am I wrong? How is Verdana cheaper?

Alvin Martinez's picture

sii said: "For those getting hung up on the “it’s a web font” complaint, I really think you should get out more. There’s a whole world beyond the computer screen! Do you complain when you see Frutiger used in print “That’s an airport signage font!” or Gotham used on a sign, “that’s a magazine font!”? ;-)"

Bad comparison. Frutiger and Gotham were never developed for use in a medium totally out of spec with print methods, so it is not comparable with using a screen font in printed matter. Verdana was developed for Microsoft with the intent of being readable at small sizes on a computer screen. Not print. Or signage. A computer screen. I am sure if MS told Carter to keep print in mind when designing Verdana, the results would have been a masterful typographic fusion of web and print compatibility.

In regard to Gotham being used on a sign, it was a typeface that was inspired by signage to begin with. : )

What I don't get, is if IKEA wanted to have a smooth transition between mediums, they should have opted for Frutiger in their print materials, which is a very comparable counterpart to Verdana.

Höfe's picture

PEOPLE WHO CAN'T DESIGN CRY THE LOUDEST NORMAL ON THIS WEBSITE.
CATER IS ALRIGHT TYPEDESIGNER, NEVER CRYING ON THIS SITE. GOOD ON HIM.

Rob O. Font's picture

almar> ...am sure if MS told Carter to keep print in mind when designing Verdana, the results would have been a masterful typographic fusion of web and print compatibility.

Really!? Can you specify that more clearly? I say, it's impossible in a 'standard' 4 style family. I m p o s s i b l e. E.G. a single bold, relative to a single Regular, is a problem to make correct for both print and web.

I think Verdana Regular is made for, and excellent at, small sizes independent of output resolution.
Clearly, small print and small screen fonts share some requirements, do they not?

>...they should have opted for Frutiger ...

What about the web then? Do you know how much it'd cost to license Frutiger for web-serving to the public?

Cheers

Bert Vanderveen's picture

What about the web then? Do you know how much it’d cost to license Frutiger for web-serving to the public?

Cheaper to have someone create Segoe, right? : )

. . .
Bert Vanderveen BNO

Alvin Martinez's picture

dberlow said "Really!? Can you specify that more clearly? I say, it’s impossible in a ’standard’ 4 style family. I m p o s s i b l e. E.G. a single bold, relative to a single Regular, is a problem to make correct for both print and web."

Perhaps not fully web and print compatible (as you alluded to) but certainly more than it is now. And whose to say that he may not have taken the road of developing a larger set of fonts under the Verdana family to accommodate both mediums?

I think Verdana Regular is made for, and excellent at, small sizes independent of output resolution.
Clearly, small print and small screen fonts share some requirements, do they not?

Certainly they do. But then display sizes, as used in IKEA's catalog, do not share the same requirements that smaller sizes do. Therein lies the core of the problem with IKEA's decision to use Verdana, unless they intend on using nothing but small print in their collateral.

What about the web then? Do you know how much it’d cost to license Frutiger for web-serving to the public?

I suggested Frutiger as Verdana's print alternative, being they have certain similarities (vague or otherwise) in their letter forms. Not necessarily in place of Verdana on the web. Just a good pairing so that their brand's visual language is still in tact across the web and print, without resorting to using a screen font for larger sized executions.

Si_Daniels's picture

Time picks up the story and name-checks typophile. Sweet!

http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1919127,00.html

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Raumschiff words will forever be immortalized in Time magazine!

Si_Daniels's picture

Business week... Haley retorted, "Ikea will look like any company that uses Verdana. It will look like any newsletter or menu from a deli around the corner. It doesn't differentiate them."

Slate... "Ikea is Verdana"

Furniture Today... "Who gives a crap???Get a life..." (comment)

mehallo's picture

I'm noticing this trend that's been going on where the general public has started to discover that there's more to fonts than just finding them on the menu. That's ... good or bad, depending.

What concerns me is the concept that Verdana could easily become labeled as a BAD FONT in all of this.

Verdana is NOT a bad font. It is a font that is overexposed (which culturally tends to cause problems. Reference: Phil Collins, circa 1985) - but Verdana does have some wonderful Matthew Carter-esque details that makes it a beautiful type family.

The font isn't bad.

IKEA thinking it's a suitable replacement for their custom version of Futura.

That's bad.

steve mehallo
http://tinyurl.com/mehallofonts
http://mehallo.com/blog

Ed_Aranda's picture

Well put, Steve. That’s kind of what I was getting at when I said that Futura was better for them. But I'm afraid that Verdana is going to get lumped into that category of “untouchables” along with Arial, Century Gothic, etc.

BlueStreak's picture

I agree Ed. Steve makes an excellent point. Verdana is one of the all-time great fonts. It's just being asked to do more for IKEA than it was intended to do because there is no other choice. More than anything else this IKEA/Verdana discussion highlights that gaping hole in universally functional fonts that exist on almost every device.

BTW Nick Shinn, I wish you'd been quoted in Time because I think you've presented the best perspective on the matter.

Aaron Thesing's picture

Be forewarned, this post is light-hearted and slightly off the topic.

Perhaps this will draw more attention to Verdana, and I won't have to listen to people 'correct' me and say "veranda."

I'm astonished by how many people mispronounce Verdana's name.

Nick Shinn's picture

Thanks Dan, maybe one day I'll be the famous go-to guy for font sound-bites!
I thought Allan Haley did a good job of speaking out for the company that licensed Futura to Ikea.

Si_Daniels's picture

Strange. Minnesota Public Radio links here, and yet Typophile stays up!? ;-)

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/state-of-th...

SezioneAureaLog's picture

... ...Carter designed Verdana clearly inspired by Frutiger... ...
... I don’t think he works that way...

Just compare yourself both Frutiger/Verdana.

... He designs to the brief...

Of course He did.

Jens Kutilek's picture

Time wrote: So why would Ikea make such a change? The very ubiquity of Verdana seems to be part of the font's appeal. Freely distributed by Microsoft, the typeface allows Ikea to use the same font in all countries and with many alphabets.

I have read this argument somewhere else before, and I totally don't get it:

  • Verdana isn't freely distributed (except in a very old version inside the MS "core fonts" package, the legality of which still being available is debatable)
  • Last time I checked, the "many alphabets" only included Latin, Cyrillic and Greek
Rob O. Font's picture

>And whose to say that [Carter/Microsoft] may not have taken the road of developing a larger set of fonts under the Verdana family to accommodate both mediums?

I think that would be a Microsoft 'whose to say'. When you accommodate both mediums, print and web, with today's technologies as they stand, let me know!

Cheers!

Nick Shinn's picture

Just compare yourself both Frutiger/Verdana.

Would you say that the Frutiger typeface was "inspired" by Ad Sans (Humanist 970)?

I would imagine that Matthew Carter was aware of Ad Sans, Frutiger, and Myriad, but didn't refer to them while working on Verdana, as his primary objective was to design a type that worked well as bitmaps at several low-pixel heights.

Si_Daniels's picture

>his primary objective was to design a type that worked well as bitmaps

As mentioned in my ATypI talk last year and in various interviews with Matthew over the years, he designed the bitmaps first, then the outlines. Then Tom Rickner hinted the outlines to produce the original bitmap designs. In this process I don't really see how other outline type designs could have directly informed the design.

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