“But some IKEA fans were outraged”: Changing fonts is a tricky business



Via the AP at SFGate:

08-30) 12:25 PDT STOCKHOLM, (AP) —

Ikea, the Swedish furniture chain, said Sunday it never expected such a backlash after switching typeface in its latest catalog.

The company’s decision to make its first such font change in 50 years — from the iconic Futura typeface to the Verdana one — has caused a worldwide reaction on the Internet. The catalog, which the company advertises as the world’s most printed book, was distributed last month.

“We’re surprised,” said Ikea spokeswoman Camilla Meiby. “But I think it’s mainly experts who have expressed their views, people who are interested in fonts. I don’t think the broad public is that interested.”

Verdana was invented by Microsoft for use on a computer screen, not on paper. Its wide, open letters with space between characters are designed to increase legibility on small computer screens.

Ikea said that in order to reach many people in many different ways, it needed a font that works in both digital and print media.

“Verdana is a simple, cost-effective font which works well in all media and languages,” Meiby said.

But some Ikea fans were outraged, finding Verdana less elegant than Futura.

The online forum Typophile ended its first post with the words, “It’s a sad day.”

A week ago, Romanian design consultant Marius Ursache started an online petition called “Ikea, please get rid of Verdana.” On Sunday, the campaign had more than 2,700 signatures.

The move to a simple, modern-looking font also fueled Twitter posts such as “Ikea, stop the Verdana madness” and “Words can’t describe my disgust.”

As we say in Trek fandom, “THIS IS A DISASTER”.

I’ve put up side-by-side images of IKEA catalogs so you can see the change (and I stole these from NPR, which seems to be the only website that actually shows the difference in font style). It’s not a huge difference: they’re both clean, simple sans-serif fonts, but the character spacing is clearly different. IKEA’s reasons for changing to a more common font are perfectly reasonable – hey, it’s not like they changed the name or anything.

If it saves them a few billion kronen, it’s clearly the right business decision – no matter what some “critics” (self-appointed design police) might say.

The two things I learned from this tempest in a teapot are

1. You can’t make any kind of change to a company’s brand without someone pissing on it

2. There are such things as IKEA fans. Who knew?


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