Sunday, September 6, 2009

The IKEA Dispute

Lots of people are upset about IKEA’s new typography.  They stopped using their distinctive IKEA Sans typeface (a version of Futura) that they have used for over 50 years, and have started using a more generic typeface, Verdana.  They said the change was due to expanding the company internationally; they needed a typeface that could be read clearly in several different languages. 

Check out the difference here in the copy on the bottom left of both images.  The left image shows the old typeface, the right shows the new typeface using Verdana.  

IKEA is known for its great design, and many designers are upset at this move.  I believe using the Verdana  typeface is definitely a downgrade.  In the NY Times, a spokeswoman for IKEA commented on the negative critiques: “We’re surprised…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.” 

While for the most part, I agree the majority will not notice the difference; however, the spokeswoman is almost talking down to designers who have noticed the change.  These are the designers who have studied examples of companies that use great design, such as IKEA, and now that comes to an end.  While designers are able to pinpoint the font difference, the general public for the most part will not.  However, a part of the visual identity of IKEA is lost, and this is something the public will sense this over time.  

If anything, the news about the font change is great publicity for the company.  Read more about this here in the NYTimes:

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