Last Thursday (27th August) at 09:49 I posted the following tweet…
Ikea want to give the same impression on the web and in print so they use Verdana everywhere. It goes much deeper than just a font folks.
Like most tweets, I posted and thought nothing more of it. In fact, I thought I was a bit late coming to this party as plenty of others had been bemoaning Ikea’s new font choice for a few days.
Anyway, at 09:59 I received this email…
After a small amount of Googling I found the reporter’s, Lisa Abend, LinkedIn profile and discovered that this wasn’t a fake. (The email had come from a gmail account)
So followed a brief email conversation where she asked me to expand on my 140 characters worth of thoughts. What I wrote in full…
Sometimes organisations make changes for the sake of it. They may feel that they need to refresh their identity to stay relevant and up to date. But, on the face of it, Ikea seem to have the right intentions in this case. They say they want to create a unified look across their website and print materials. This is an entirely sensible approach. But it’s rather crude to simply use the same font across both mediums. A brand identity is composed of much more than just a font. It’s about the art direction of the photography. The application of colour and white space, copywriting and a myriad of other small touches.
Previously they were using a slight variant on Futura – maybe slightly tweaked to lend it a uniqueness that couldn’t be mimicked easily. Looking at the old and new catalogues side by side, the use of a font as pervasive as Verdana only helps to diminish the distinct look the previous generations of the Ikea catalogue exhibited. If, for example, you covered up the Ikea logo on the old and new catalogues, I would suggest that members of the general public would be able to more easily recognise the ‘Ikeaness’ of the old catalogue.
Regarding the font choice. It’s been said a lot already, but Verdana was designed specifically for screen use. It has open, wide letterforms with lots of space between characters to aid legibility at small sizes on screen. Using it for print imposes all sorts of problems on the designer. The horizonal space taken up by words is huge when type is set in Verdana as opposed to Futura. It doesn’t exhibit any elegance or visual rhythm when it is set at large sizes. And in caps it looks, in my opinion, hideous.
It’s like taking the family saloon car off road. It will sort of work but will ultimately get bogged down as it isn’t fit for purpose.
Lo and behold at 09:20 on 28 August (within 24 hours of my first tweet) I received an email with a link to the finished piece, quoting yours truly, on time.com. The Font War: Ikea Fans Fume over Verdana
Interesting how, through such a simple mechanism as a Twitter search, a journalist can gather together people who may be willing interviewees about a given subject. What’s also interesting to note is the timing. If I’d been with the initial commenters on this a few days earlier I’d probably never have been approached. The fact that I was late and within a few minutes of the journalist’s search mean I was directly in line for her enquiries.