September 5th, 2009
Sure, I’d seen the rumblings ’round the blogs and design sites. Read the rants of typophiles and fans of all things Swiss Modern. But this morning the discourse was taken to another elevation when I read this.
You know you’ve tapped into something when the New York Times weighs in. Either that or it’s a very slow news day at The Arts desk.
Go ahead. Google “Ikea” and “Verdana.” Then prepare to search through more than one million results, with everything from Flickr pages photodocumenting the grave deed to an “anti-Verdana” petition. Ironically, the latter came up on my screen in, wait for it… Verdana.
I’m going to go out on a limb and disagree with Marius, this particular petition’s author, and a league of fellow designers here. As a hybrid creative — comfortably positioned in both print and pixels — I’m challenged by designers and art directors who are so enamored of a typeface (and Futura plays a part quite often, coincidentally) that they refuse to see the limitations or liabilities within their design choices. I also understand what may well be the business driver behind the Ikea decision as well as others we see coming, seemingly, from boardrooms instead of studios.
I’ll be honest: Futura is a poor type choice for online. The modern curves and equally weighted lines that make this a classic face are nearly impossible to render on-screen. Readability is sacrificed and, counter to a designers intent, so is the very quality of the face. Just doesn’t work.
And as far as making a sound business decision, I’m of the mind that Ikea’s simply preparing a phase-out of their print catalog and migrating this sales material to its web-based sibling. The move might have been clumsy — pairing their logotype with the new-faced “2010″ on the catalog cover made me shake my designer head — but it was not the end of the world as so many have suggested. I wonder if those same designers would be in such an uproar about brand consistency across platforms if the company had made another decision altogether.
At the end of the day most consumers, and Ikea brand enthusiasts, won’t notice the change. Before the hub-bub would any of us really noticed?
[added 19 SEP 09]
This landed in my inbox today — Ikea chooses an ugly font — from Gerry McGovern. I’ve received his newsletter, New Thinking, for years and find that he’s always got something insightful and useful to share. This piece was particularly fitting and his perspective on the “why” of Ikea’s decision is spot-on, in my opinion.