IKEA Goes Verdana, Shoppers Lament

The big font news this week is that IKEA, the Swedish goods retailer popular with dorms and starter apartments has now switched their company font to Verdana. The font change is said to be applicable to online and print platforms; however, I'm a little skeptical that the design decision was based entirely on cost.

In an interview with the Swedish design magazine Cap & Design, IKEA’s Ivana Hrdlickova says the main reason for the switch was to allow the company to use the same typeface in all countries (current IKEA typefaces do not contain Asian characters, for example). Being that Verdana was designed for the web, it also allows the company’s image to remain consistent online and in print.

How much a font designer will charge for this project? Those of you in the field know that this cost can be hefty; and although IKEA is fairing well in a down market, they may be looking to cut corners wherever possible. What's particularly troubling about it, is on a bigger level IKEA may be now, instead of theory, catering to the masses in a condescending manner. It says, "Oh you want, cheap with no thought--here you go!" In a way, IKEA is thumbing its nose at its customers, which can--and should--alienate them.

TIME magazine reports, The main complaint that online protesters have, though, is that the newly adopted font is plain ugly. Especially when it's enlarged to, say, the size of a catalogue headline. Or worse yet, a billboard.

The Guardian writes, Should we care about these things as much as type designers do? I believe we should, and not just because in my experience type designers tend to be wise souls. If everything looked like a front page of the Times from 1950, then we may as well all still be living in black-and-white. And beyond the risk of homogeneity, there is emotion. Used well, type design defines mood, and how we think about everything we see. It can make us think seriously or frivolously; it can guide us effortlessly, or it can entertain us viscerally.

So what's the final verdict from you, our faithful design readers? Do you think the decision was warranted or will it prove to be an image nightmare for the retailer?

Here are some viewpoints from around the web:



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