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Ikea de-Futurafies
August 26, 2009 5:26 AM   Subscribe

Ikea de-Futurafies. You may have noticed something at once familiar and unfamiliar about the 2009 Ikea catalogue: The company switched from a custom variant of Futura to the font you stare at all day in your browser, Verdana. And type nerds are losing their shit!

Verdana is now being used company-wide – even for double-page newspaper ads and illegal urban graffiti campaigns. “They want to be able to give the same visual impression both in print and the Web,” says a report.
posted by joeclark (167 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
posted by ocherdraco at 5:31 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Crapola.

(NOT FONT-IST)
posted by jquinby at 5:32 AM on August 26, 2009


I wish I was staring at Verdana in my browser all day. I installed some software last week and my browser font got messed up somehow. It's ugly as crap.
posted by DU at 5:34 AM on August 26, 2009


Futura has always been my favorite typeface. I'm going to smash up my LÖVÅS sofa over this.
posted by birdherder at 5:35 AM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I actually got angry when I heard about this cause I think Futura is one of the most solid, beautiful print faces around and Verdana is so ...meh.

Then I realized I was getting angry about a font change made to a catalog I don't read, at a store I've never gone to, about a typeface I don't use often, and about the use and design of said things years after I've stopped doing design professionally.

Then I realized I had a problem.
posted by The Whelk at 5:35 AM on August 26, 2009 [50 favorites]


Exciting thing I learned yesterday: you can change the font on Metafilter. Would it be too cruel to sneak on MrMippy's Mac, set it to Wingdings, and watch as he wonders whether it is a message only he can see?
posted by mippy at 5:36 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well shit. Somehow that incredible clean and and almost minimalist look of the sans-serif Futura variant they used gelled so well with their company image as a whole, and those elements of Scandinavian design they embraced.

This new typeface does nothing for me, and makes their ads and literature seem much more... flat, somehow. It just doesn't work as well.
posted by Dysk at 5:36 AM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I quite like Verdana.
And yesterday I wrote a document and thereafter distributed it, in Times New Roman! Guess I'm just gettin' old.
posted by Flashman at 5:37 AM on August 26, 2009


My old company had Gill Sans as their corporate font. Weirdly enough, this was the same organisation who unofficially banned Chris Langham from their programming...
posted by mippy at 5:39 AM on August 26, 2009


Who cares? Fuck Ikea & their shitty fall-apart furniture. Bunch of dog wank.
posted by i_cola at 5:39 AM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


(This post got me motivated to try to get back to Verdana and now it says I'm using Verdana but it looks worse than ever. I better stop fiddling with it...)
posted by DU at 5:41 AM on August 26, 2009


Futura is fucking timeless, and they should be ashamed of themselves. To make a car analogy... This is like if Ikea changed all their company cars from Delage D8 120s to Honda Accords.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:41 AM on August 26, 2009


...and somehow, I think I can find a way to justify being slightly annoyed by this. First off, IKEA is pretty much the worldwide ambassador for Scandinavian design (and really, most of IKEA's stuff is slightly bastardised Danish design) which is awesome. Now, a whole lot of people are getting a worse impression of it overall, which is bad. The clean minimalism of Scandinavian design is awesome, and as somebody living in the UK, I consider its popularity and pervasiveness to have a direct impact on my quality of life. British interior design (of the sort you see in most houses*) is horrific, and actually causes me stress.

*(Wall-to-wall carpeted bathrooms, flowery carpets, flowery wallpaper [which doesn't match the carpet of course], dark colours, heavy drapes, and just everything clashing in a way that would almost take effort.)
posted by Dysk at 5:42 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Civil_Disobedient: Futura is fucking timeless, and they should be ashamed of themselves. To make a car analogy... This is like if Ikea changed all their company cars from Delage D8 120s to Honda Accords.

This is a modern Honda Accord. I'd say that fits in fairly well with the IKEA design school as a whole. It certainly fits it better than that French thing - it lacks the clean, unbroken lines and surfaces.

I'd say it's like them switching from new-model SAABs (which look somewhat similar to new-model Accords) to Hummers.
posted by Dysk at 5:46 AM on August 26, 2009


Beijing loves IKEA -- but not for shopping
posted by gman at 5:51 AM on August 26, 2009


Ugh. You don't have to be font nerd to know that screwing with your brand is a bad idea. You can just bet that some consultant told executives that they should have a consistent look in print and on the web, and they then held guns to the designers' heads. So they went from a distinctive font whose main association to many people is 'Ikea' to one whose association is 'uh, web page'.
posted by unSane at 5:51 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


i_cola typed: "Ikea & their shitty fall-apart furniture."

Huh? We have half a dozen pieces of furniture from Ikea that we've had for over a decade, that have moved with us three times. One of the legs on the big desk is a bit wobbly now, but everything else is rock-solid. It's not bombproof, but I believe Ikea's price/sturdiness ratio beats the pants off just about everything else out there.

Are you sure you aren't thinking of MFI?
posted by kcds at 5:51 AM on August 26, 2009


Then I realized I had a problem.

No, I disagree. Maybe you never shopped at Ikea, maybe you hated what they stood for, maybe you never opened their catalogs, but all those catalogs that you threw away still filled your life in some intangible, inextricable way. Like advertisements on shop windows, or public transit signage, these things cumulatively form and shape your environment. And, just as when the T-shirt and jeans replaced the fedora and suit, our environment is sadly poorer for it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:52 AM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's ignorant shit like this that moves me ever closer to just giving-up and quitting design. I mean, there's just no point to practicing a craft if, in the end, no-one cares.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:52 AM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


That typeface just embodied Ikea.
posted by fire&wings at 5:53 AM on August 26, 2009


I had Gill Sans as my corporate font for ages but I got tired of it. Too squat. Then it was Rotis Semi Sans for a while. Now it's Garamond and some Vintage Typewriter Remington knockoff.
posted by unSane at 5:53 AM on August 26, 2009


It certainly fits it better than that French thing

That French thing represents the pinnacle of Art Deco automobile design. Just as the Futura typeface best encapsulates the period. The Honda I linked to was an earlier, boxier, uglier model.

The analogy is apt.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:54 AM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I dunno, I think the font is sort of emblematic of Ikea as a whole. A to-do about nothing, ultimately.

You look at the catalogue and get excited about going to the store. When you first arrive you're all excited about eating meatballs and seeing all the new stuff.

After lunch, as you get deeper into it, you begin to realize that you don't really need any cheap, uncomfortable furniture and/or, what you have at home is better than what you're seeing. This is slightly disappointing.

Perhaps your trip downtown can be saved downstairs, with some art or knick-knacks. The kitchen stuff all looks cheap and highly breakable. The textiles are off in size in some European way that doesn't gel with your American stuff. The lamps aren't as pretty in person. The candleabra is everywhere you don't want to be.

Perhaps some candles? Wrapping paper? Something?

You end up leaving empty-handed and hit Target on the way home, for some really pretty tablecloths and some t-shirts.

Could have saved myself the trip.

And that is how I feel about the font change.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:56 AM on August 26, 2009 [15 favorites]


Maybe you never shopped at Ikea, maybe you hated what they stood for, maybe you never opened their catalogs, but all those catalogs that you threw away still filled your life in some intangible, inextricable way.

I don't hate what they stand for. I don't even know what they stand for. I've never been within 20 miles of an Ikea or seen a single catalog, let alone thrown one away.

People who live in huge cities have no idea what isn't available in the rest of the country.
posted by DU at 5:59 AM on August 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


these things cumulatively form and shape your environment. And, just as when the T-shirt and jeans replaced the fedora and suit, our environment is sadly poorer for it.

Thus, the only way to ensure real public protection from the psychic tremors caused by bad design is to place all design decisions in the hands of the Aesthetic Operation Corps.

You should see our marches, late at night, with all the beautifully wrought torches burning bright, all together with our badge numbers and finely tailored yet chic-y inexpensive black suits, marching and shouting our anthem "Form! Function! Form! Function!"

Sure it can get a little crazy and end up torching a store using Celtic Md or Papyrus or ..god help us, Comic Sans, but mostly we just hand out literature and provide free make-overs for the poor unfortunate souls in flip-flops and mom jeans. We just want to save people form themselves. To help, not to control.

Mostly.
posted by The Whelk at 5:59 AM on August 26, 2009 [12 favorites]


Is Verdana even meant to be a print typeface? That is the part that strikes me more than the loss of the previous font.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 6:00 AM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Honda Accord is a triumph of engineering and the most successful car ever produced. The Delage is an aristocratic toy that only saw production for three years.

Verdana is a font for the people. Futura is for typeface nerds who think we're living in an Ayn Rand novel.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 6:00 AM on August 26, 2009 [12 favorites]


“They want to be able to give the same visual impression both in print and the Web,” says a report.

A custom international re-worked Futura family would cost less than six months of a middle-manager's salary. What a cheap, stupid decision.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:00 AM on August 26, 2009


Civil_Disobedient: That French thing represents the pinnacle of Art Deco automobile design. Just as the Futura typeface best encapsulates the period. The Honda I linked to was an earlier, boxier, uglier model.

Well yes, but Art Deco is nothing like IKEA, and almost goes against all their design principles. Thus, I think my analogy (using the newer model of Accord) is more apt, as the new Accord fits better with those things that unite IKEA and Verdana (and make them perfect for each other).
posted by Dysk at 6:01 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just realized what really bothers me about this. It's not the aesthetics, it's that all their marketing materials now look like a cheap knockoff of themselves.

Way to go, management team. Way to go.
posted by unSane at 6:01 AM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


IKEA and Futura, not IKEA and Verdana. Damnit.
posted by Dysk at 6:03 AM on August 26, 2009


Speaking of French cars, I used to want one of these so badly it hurt. Mostly after reading Barthes.
posted by unSane at 6:04 AM on August 26, 2009


People who live in huge cities have no idea what isn't available in the rest of the country.

Too true! I just finished whittling a chair this morning. I'm going to trade it for shoes.

The closest Ikea is in Atlanta.
posted by jquinby at 6:05 AM on August 26, 2009 [11 favorites]


Wow, Futura is my favorite font (see profile pic), but Verdana is what I use whenever it's not available.
posted by odinsdream at 6:06 AM on August 26, 2009


Who cares? Fuck Ikea & their shitty fall-apart furniture. Bunch of dog wank

You say that like a man who has no need for tealights.
posted by mippy at 6:09 AM on August 26, 2009 [21 favorites]



People who live in huge cities have no idea what isn't available in the rest of the country.

My mum lives in a small town - a good 2hrs drive from an Ikea - and sees it as furniture for yuppies, people with urban tastes and urban incomes. Yet in London it's seen as cheap, temporary rental home furniture. I'd rather Ikea stuff than Argos, though, it seems better made and better designed (sure, their stuff won't make it into Living Etc magazine, but sometimes there's nothing wrong with being mass-market.)
posted by mippy at 6:12 AM on August 26, 2009


This had to have been a decision made by a committee.
posted by gomichild at 6:12 AM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


People who live in huge cities have no idea what isn't available in the rest of the country.

People in the rest of the country like to assume that city folk have no experience outside of the big city.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:12 AM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


all their marketing materials now look like a cheap knockoff of themselves.

I agree, they almost look like Lidl brochures.
posted by Elmore at 6:15 AM on August 26, 2009


People in the rest of the country like to assume that city folk have no experience outside of the big city.

An easy assumption to make, when told to "just run to Ikea" or talking about how integral Ikea catalogs are to very fabric of American life.
posted by DU at 6:16 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wasn't sure of the difference, so I googled and got Futura, Verdana.

It seems to be that Futura has slightly longer vertical bits at the top.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:17 AM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Beijing loves IKEA -- but not for shopping

The awesome thing about that link is that through the magic of Chinese to English transliteration, this apparently means "white collar."
posted by kittyprecious at 6:17 AM on August 26, 2009


Serifs are a slippery slope. Hey, anyone get their new summer sale catalog?


Huh? We have half a dozen pieces of furniture from Ikea that we've had for over a decade.

That's fortunate--but really, ten years is nothing for quality hardwood furniture. The chair I am sitting on is over 100 years old.

posted by applemeat at 6:19 AM on August 26, 2009


I noticed this, but I figured it was a printer's mistake that would be corrected.

What an awful deliberate decision.
posted by rokusan at 6:21 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


An easy assumption to make, when told to "just run to Ikea" or talking about how integral Ikea catalogs are to very fabric of American life.

Sometimes, being a Brit on the web, you spend a lot of time explaining that no, you can't go to Jo-Anns, or Target, or Old Navy, or Wal-Mart (shame - they sell fabric at Wal-Mart in the States!) but thanks for the suggestion.

Anyway, the town-and-city place for cheap furniture over here is Argos - is there any equivalent in the States for people who don't drive or don't live near an Ikea?
posted by mippy at 6:27 AM on August 26, 2009


I loves me some Futura. I mean, truly truly loves me some Futura. I think Wes Anderson led me down that crimson path. My email sigs all have my surname in all caps, and, if I can help it, in Futura. My website uses Futura for the logo. Futura is awesome; it is clean; it is, in a word, perfect.

Verdana isn't Comic Sans, but anyone who thinks Verdana is a better overall choice than Futura doesn't know shit about design, print or otherwise. "Verdana's the font of the people"? Yeah, well, sometimes the people are morons.
posted by grubi at 6:27 AM on August 26, 2009


Oh gracious, that Verdana looks like hot fried poop.
posted by contessa at 6:29 AM on August 26, 2009


if you people take this thread past 100 posts, we're taking every last one of you in for a psych eval....
posted by HuronBob at 6:31 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Someone should be fired. Someone should be fired in Comic Sans for this. Idiot.
posted by cavalier at 6:31 AM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


is there any equivalent in the States for people who don't drive or don't live near an Ikea?

There are people who swear by Target, but after putting together some of their stuff I put my foot down and told my wife Nevar Again. It's pretty cheap and crappy for the most part. (I don't know if Target is "equivalent" exactly--just that people get some "cool-looking" furniture there.)
posted by DU at 6:35 AM on August 26, 2009


The furniture store nearest my house
posted by mippy at 6:39 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


My shit?! Where is it?!?
posted by mazola at 6:40 AM on August 26, 2009


...after putting together some of their stuff I put my foot down and told my wife Nevar Again.

I have to say, I just recently assembled a corner cabinet from here. When I saw the little bags of cam locks and dowels, I groaned within. But - the thing was solid wood throughout, tolerances were tight and it's rock solid. I'm through with all that Sauder stuff forever, full stop.
posted by jquinby at 6:41 AM on August 26, 2009


Futura has slightly longer vertical bits at the top.

SOMEONE MUST HANG!


I really don't get how people could be distraught over a font change. It's not like I woke up confused, read the catalog and went "I think it's IKEA but I can't be too sure because of these weirdly shaped letters..." Maybe I'm not seeing another side to this and would gladly encourage enlightenment from some of the designers among us.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:44 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Along similar lines, I noticed recently that the public transport signage in Venice is in Arial, and was wondering why; whether they couldn't pony up the 25 euros for a copy of Helvetica Bold.

If there is a larger trend of standardising on a small set of "web-safe" fonts, we're in for a meagre design future indeed.
posted by acb at 6:45 AM on August 26, 2009


To explain to the uninitiated, Argos is a place where you go into a little store (usually chock full of single mothers and strollers), look through a huge fat laminated catalogue and then place an order on a piece of cardboard. Then you queue up and pay for it, and wait (usually not for that long, to be honest) for a quite pleasant woman's voice that says "order number 765 to the collection room please" (or whatever your number might be).
There used to be a similar store in Canada called 'Consumers Distributing' but I think it went out of business a long time ago. Maybe there's something like this in the States, but I think mostly down there this is the business model for how you buy your guns and liquor in the inner city.
posted by Flashman at 6:46 AM on August 26, 2009


The furniture store nearest my house

Ah yes, Budget Liberace!
posted by applemeat at 6:46 AM on August 26, 2009


Target bookshelves are not as nice as Ikea, but they cost about half as much, so that seems about right.
posted by smackfu at 6:47 AM on August 26, 2009


You can just bet that some consultant told executives that they should have a consistent look in print and on the web

That by itself isn't a bad idea, they just changed the wrong thing. We're going to have more typographic choices on the web real soon now (just like the last 10 years). In the meantime they could've used SIFR or Cufon to do headings in Futura and do body copy in Verdana.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:48 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I think it's IKEA but I can't be too sure because of these weirdly shaped letters..."

It's more like "Hey, why does Ikea look all cheap now?"
posted by rokusan at 6:49 AM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Flashman - it doesn't have a reputation as a classy place. Though I was amused when I read India Knight's book on shopping and she talked about how amazing and cheap it was as though only she had heard of it. I guess if most of your furniture is inherited rather than bought it must seem exciting.

The only furniture I've ever bought myself came from Paperchase, which probably makes me a hipster.
posted by mippy at 6:51 AM on August 26, 2009


is this something one would need a couch to know about?
posted by little e at 6:52 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I grew up in rural Alabama and Tennessee, the general term in my family for inexpensive, unasembled, boxed, largely pressboard furniture has been Ikea furniture even when it came from Wal-Mart, just a the general term for facial tissue was Kleenex, food processors were Cuisinarts (pronounced CUEs-in-art), and all carbonated, high-fructose beverages were Cokes. I had never been to an Ikea store until I moved to Beijing, yet I was somehow still aware of what Ikea furniture was and was like. I had probably never even seen first-hand an actual Ikea piece of furniture, even so I was aware of the odd quasi-scandinavian names the items had. Unless I am mistaken and they have discontinued mail service outside of cities, Ikea catalogs still make it into the boxes of even the most rural American locales.

Incidentally, one town I lived in even had a factory that churned out competing unassembled, inexpensive, boxed, largely pressboard furniture that my brother worked at for a summer job. We still, to this day call that stuff Ikea, but I guess since our geography has changed we are somehow now the dreaded, provincial "City folk" so that terminology would apparently fit our demographic.

"So for the new shelf in the kids' room, were you thinking something nice or just something Ikea?"

Maybe there's something like this in the States

Service Merchandise, but it went out of business.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:55 AM on August 26, 2009


.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:03 AM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, I was just going to mention Service Merchandise. I loved that store as a child; looking through the catalog, and things just showing up on the conveyor belt; I imagined Oompa Loompas working behind the scenes. Currently, I think a lot of people buy furniture from places like Rooms To Go and Macys or Sears even.

Is it awful that I couldn't really tell the difference between Futura and Verdana? There seems to be more space between the characters in Verdana, but that's the extent my eye can distinguish. I don't really like Ikea furniture (although I don't mind their tchochkes), so perhaps I'm just not hip to their whole aesthetic.
posted by bluefly at 7:04 AM on August 26, 2009


On the one hand, meh.

On the other hand... actually, still meh.

I like Futura. Verdana I'm tired of -- it's always felt too wide to me, which I know is one reason why it's such a great web font, but it doesn't feel as versatile as Helvetica and its bastard child Arial. (One of my favorite fonts is Garamond, and it's absolute crap on the web while looking exquisite as a print font.)

But honestly, as long as it's legible and not some overused "whimsical font" (Comic Sans, come on down) or an overused "arty font" (Papyrus, first against the wall), I don't really give a rip anymore.

Maybe, in some perverted way, this is another way to get Adobe and Microsoft to the table on @font-face. Probably not, though.
posted by dw at 7:04 AM on August 26, 2009


Who cares? Fuck Ikea & their shitty fall-apart furniture. Bunch of dog wank.

Who cares? Fuck Ford & their shitty fall-apart Model Ts. Bunch of dog wank.
posted by happyroach at 7:11 AM on August 26, 2009


Maybe, in some perverted way, this is another way to get Adobe and Microsoft to the table on @font-face.

First they'd have to get the table assembled.
posted by applemeat at 7:13 AM on August 26, 2009 [13 favorites]


I see dead fonts
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:13 AM on August 26, 2009


my last comment would have been a lot better if metafilter hadn't stomped on my <font face = 'courier' size = '10'> tag.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:14 AM on August 26, 2009


Computer Modern
posted by prak at 7:23 AM on August 26, 2009


Wow, I never knew people took their fonts so seriously.

I'm afraid now if I walk in the wrong part of town wearing a T-shirt with Comic Sans on it, I might get roughed up by a vigilante typeface gang.
posted by TBAcceptor at 7:24 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


TBAcceptor, it's happened before.
posted by applemeat at 7:27 AM on August 26, 2009


I don't know sans from serif, but when i got my Ikea catalolg last week it seemed surprisingly dull. Nothing looked interesting or inspiring and it went into the trash within a few days.

Coincidence? Who knows.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:27 AM on August 26, 2009


Are they going to print all their catalogs at 72 DPI from now on too?
posted by bink at 7:32 AM on August 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Is Verdana even meant to be a print typeface?

No, it isn't. It's a typeface built and optimized for on-screen display. It's utterly useless as a print face...unless you're going for that "I had my secretary do our brochure in Publisher" look that is all the rage today. Then it's the go-to font.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:53 AM on August 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


This is the kind of thing that justifies an act of butchery.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 7:54 AM on August 26, 2009


Papyrus is horrid. I particularly like Century Schoolbook, though.
posted by mippy at 7:57 AM on August 26, 2009


ObSuck: Your favorite typeface sucks.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:58 AM on August 26, 2009


I can't tell the difference. What changed?
posted by backseatpilot at 8:02 AM on August 26, 2009


Your favourite typeface IS Suck
posted by mippy at 8:09 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also they want to be able to give the same visual impression both in print and the web.

Ha -- well to all the crying dsigners in this thread, a hearty "enjoy being hoisted on your own fucking petard" since it is the design community that has insisted on exactly these "visual identity" bullshitty things for years. If you had been able to accept that maybe, just maybe, customers could figure out that IKEA was IKEA on the web through some cues other than fucking typography (maybe like "ikea.com" and Andrjerser wastepaperbaskets), maybe they would have kept your precious Futura. As it stands, this is the natural end product of a stream of design I've seen unfolding for years which leads to greater homogenization and, it should be said, bigger, fatter design team contracts making the work of redoing corporate and institutional "visual identities".
posted by Rumple at 8:12 AM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


i_cola typed: "Ikea & their shitty fall-apart furniture."

Ikea furniture is as sturdy as the person who makes it. Many people way overtighten everything and that often weakens the structure.

Also be sure to get the instructions right the first time around. Never ever take it apart and put it back together because it's designed to be put together exactly once.

Do it right and Ikea makes good junk.
posted by mazola at 8:49 AM on August 26, 2009


the design community that has insisted on exactly these "visual identity" bullshitty things for years.

There's nothing bullshitty about being consistent. It's one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to appear professional. A business that uses seven different fonts depending on the mood of the communications department that week looks disorganized. And probably is.

The problem with Ikea here is not that they want to be consistent, it's that they've chosen a least-common denominator approach to doing so by taking a typeface that screams "computer screen text" and trying to shoehorn it to work in printed media.

It's also very shortsighted. It makes no sense bending the whole company's voice to whatever happens to be the web font flavor of the month (or in Verdana's case, the flavor of five years ago). I mean, if they had done this twenty years ago, would they have made their logo out of green-and-black ASCII? Printed the catalog on roll-feed paper with sprocket holes?

This will date very badly, and look worse as the years pass. It may even look as ridiculous as all those people who took the original Macintosh "Chicago" typeface (again, only ever meant for a certain onscreen purpose: menus and buttons) and forced it onto their posters in the 80's. Because you know, it made things look "cool" and "computery."

Unless you're going for geek kitsch, this is always a really dumb move.
posted by rokusan at 8:51 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, I was just going to mention Service Merchandise. I loved that store as a child; looking through the catalog, and things just showing up on the conveyor belt; I imagined Oompa Loompas working behind the scenes. Currently, I think a lot of people buy furniture from places like Rooms To Go and Macys or Sears even

One place that has some really good, trendy, cheap furniture is American Signature and/or it's parent Value-City.

I think most of the stuff is made in China and they are murder to deal with. But I got a very nice dining room set dirt cheap.

We also bought a two bed frames, a mattress set, sofas, and some bedding. The dining room table took 3 months to arrive on the slowest boat imaginable. But I love the stuff and the price.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:56 AM on August 26, 2009


It seems to be that Futura has slightly longer vertical bits at the top.

Not really. Futura has round tittles on lowercase i and j where Verdana has square ones (because Verdana was designed as a screen font when circles were bound to look jaggy), and Verdana has hooked uppercase Js, and that's just looking at the obvious elements that differ between the two faces. Verdana's x-height (the height of lower-case letters) is much larger than Futura's, its letters have wider proportions, its spacing is looser, and so on. All of these were design choices made for the font to work well on computer screens. All of them turn out to be choices that make a font really, really ugly when printed in comparison to classics like Futura.
posted by spitefulcrow at 8:56 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've always been amazed at the passion some people have for typefaces. I'm sure it's a weird fun house mirror reflection of some of the things I'm passionate about out of all reason.

"Who cares? Fuck Ikea & their shitty fall-apart furniture. Bunch of dog wank."

And yet here you are. There isn't any requirement for anyone to comment in this or any other thread.
posted by Mitheral at 8:58 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anyone not upset by this DESERVES Ikea furniture.
posted by mazola at 9:00 AM on August 26, 2009


I can't tell the difference. What changed?

Away with you, troll.
posted by rokusan at 9:04 AM on August 26, 2009


Ok, so where does one go to buy reasonably affordable, modern looking furniture if Ikea is so bad?
posted by orme at 9:05 AM on August 26, 2009


Most of Ikea's furniture is definitely cheap: it's a great choice for temporary, but there's no way it's supposed to compete with actual fine furniture. It's for your dorm room, your temporary apartment, your practical spaces.

Now, their organizational gear, especially for kitchens.... drool.
posted by rokusan at 9:06 AM on August 26, 2009


Knowing how passionate some people can get over typography, I've always been tempted to post an AskMe about what fonts should I set for defaults on my browsers. I suspect I might get tempbanned for trolling, though. (Besides my amusement factor, I do think I'd enjoy hearing what typographic geeks would have to say on the matter, still.)
posted by Iosephus at 9:15 AM on August 26, 2009


Wow, do I ever feel out of the loop. I visited IKEA once, in 1986 in Hannover, (West) Germany. Have never opened one of their catalogs. Didn't even KNOW they had catalogs until this post. Didn't have any clue how ubiquitous they must be.

Right now I'm dwelling in the irony that a website called "typophile" thinks that Safari running on a Mac somehow deserves to be served up the "mobile version" of the webpage. Hardly what one would expect from a group which ought to pride themselves on having a beautiful layout.
posted by hippybear at 9:15 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your favourite typeface IS Suck

Seeing those letters opened a capsule of memories of the late 1990s. I imagine that's something like what baby-boomers who grew up reading MAD Magazine experience when they see a Don Martin illustration.

(It's been, what, 10 years now?)
posted by acb at 9:18 AM on August 26, 2009


Ha -- well to all the crying dsigners in this thread, a hearty "enjoy being hoisted on your own fucking petard" since it is the design community that has insisted on exactly these "visual identity" bullshitty things for years

Not sure if you're trolling here or if you really are just that short-sighted. There is a worlds of difference between having a consistent visual identity and using a made-for-screen 72 dpi style font for your print media. This is nothing about a consistent look or feel but all about the mistake of one designer and/or more likely the presiding marketing/communications exec who with any luck is goin to be replaced soon for doing something so darn blasted stupid.

I repeat, a consistent visual identity is not about just sticking blindly to one font for all of your communication. There are worlds of color theory, iconography, pictography, etcetera.... but maybe you'd rather think designers as a bunch of useless twits diddling about on their Macs? Short sighted.
posted by cavalier at 9:18 AM on August 26, 2009


And now that I've taken two deep breaths and smoked a Helvetica library, I re-read the rest of your comment and I may have misjudged my angle -- you are railing against crappy designers, then? Because I can join you on that. I can join you on everyone making an identity with a swoosh, or with a circle, because that's what other folks are doing. I can't join you if you're labelling all designers as pushers of that drivel, though..
posted by cavalier at 9:21 AM on August 26, 2009


I think this outcry has something to do with Ted Kennedy's passing.
People are just channelling their grief.
posted by Flashman at 9:22 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


People who live in huge cities have no idea what isn't available in the rest of the country.

Even in some larger cities, too; what's commonplace in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles may not even make it to Columbus or Milwaukee. Witness the "Everywhere But Buffalo" phenomenon, where national and regional chains will set up shop in almost every large and medium-sized metro in the nation or region, except western New York.
posted by elmwood at 9:43 AM on August 26, 2009


To the people who think caring about fonts is silly: stop to think about how much of our culture is, and has been, based around the written word. And how the presentation of those words affects how the reader interprets them (even the most 'font blind' people can pick up on some visual cues, it's just that few non-designers can pick apart and explain them).

IKEA branding isn't something to get upset about in itself, but it really does look terrible and seems like another example of people with no expertise or love for design overruling those who know and care.
Unless, of course, it's an evil campaign intended to wind up the design-conscious before unveiling some swanky new branding...
posted by malevolent at 9:45 AM on August 26, 2009


There can only be one typeface. And that typefsace is Trade Gothic. All other typefaces are it's bitch. Except for it's stern older cousin Helvetica Neue. Which may be used when TG is on vacation in the Canary Islands.

Oh. And. Use Hobo? Go to jail.
posted by tkchrist at 9:49 AM on August 26, 2009


Who cares. And who even notices.
posted by Zambrano at 9:54 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


tkchrist, HFJ's Knockout could totally take Trade Gothic in a fight.
posted by nicepersonality at 9:58 AM on August 26, 2009


Who cares. And who even notices.

We care. We notice.
posted by cavalier at 9:59 AM on August 26, 2009


OK, I've gone and found my new Ikea catalogue (it was beside my bed!) and yes, you're absolutely right, it is a problem. Not so much the little text, but you sure see it in the headlines.

joeclark, I was really hoping you'd posted a link to something with multiple pages, after your snarky comment against same on the awl the other day! But no, not this time.. : )
posted by Flashman at 10:04 AM on August 26, 2009


This seems like a succinct argument as to why this is a bad idea.
posted by chunking express at 10:11 AM on August 26, 2009


"Who cares. And who even notices."

The thing is, unless you're blind, you almost certainly notice. You just don't see the component parts and how they go together, you have a vague overall instinctive reaction based on your cultural experiences.

A musician can hear how a piece of music is constructed, an architect can see what makes up a building, and a writer picks up on the subtle flow of sentences and choices of words. You probably have some kind of expertise that results in seeing your own set of wizards hiding behind curtains, so why dismiss designers' insights?
posted by malevolent at 10:16 AM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


> Who cares. And who even notices.

People of higher quality than you, judging from evidence.
posted by ardgedee at 10:20 AM on August 26, 2009


Verdana is just the beginning of the Fontocalypse. Fake Scandinavian vocabulary looks even better in Comic Sans.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:28 AM on August 26, 2009


Away with you, troll.

I'm sorry, but I'm dead serious. I clicked on the first link and there's a small photo there with a caption that says before/after. It looks like two pages out of the same catalog to me. Then I looked at Wikipedia here and here. Now I can see that the lower case "a" and "j" are different, but... what else?

I guess my point is that there seems to be a lot of sentiment proclaiming the doom of the Ikea brand based on this decision, but as a lay person I can't tell the difference. Most people aren't graphic designers, so how big of an impact is this really going to be?
posted by backseatpilot at 10:29 AM on August 26, 2009


Most people aren't graphic designers, so how big of an impact is this really going to be

I'll bet most graphic designers wouldn't even stoop to shop at Ikea, if they can afford not to.

Design Within Reach is still using Futura, though.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:35 AM on August 26, 2009


The problem with Ikea here is not that they want to be consistent, it's that they've chosen a least-common denominator approach to doing so by taking a typeface that screams "computer screen text" and trying to shoehorn it to work in printed media.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Futura just substitute to verdana or arial or similar on most people's browsers anyway?


People of higher quality than you


People of "higher quality" -- and therein lies the problem at the heart of the hipster ethos. Your quality as a person is dependent on your appreciation of a font. Good to have these rules, maks life much easier.
posted by Rumple at 10:37 AM on August 26, 2009


I think there is a middle ground between "design doesn't matter" and "this will be IKEA's downfall".
posted by smackfu at 10:49 AM on August 26, 2009


Is it just me or does Futura look like it should be printed very large, on landscape-oriented paper that is ruled with sets of three light blue lines, the middle one dashed?
posted by darksasami at 10:52 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


if you people take this thread past 100 posts, we're taking every last one of you in for a psych eval....

Mornings work best for me, but I'm flexible.
posted by jquinby at 10:56 AM on August 26, 2009


i_cola typed: "Ikea & their shitty fall-apart furniture."

There seems to be a fairly stark divide in IKEA furniture. Pre-1997 or so, it was relatively solid (hell, my dad still had an IKEA table and their classic bentwood armchair from before I was born when I was 17, and apart from dings and scratches they were in excellent shape), post 1999-ish it just falls apart when you look at it funny.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:04 AM on August 26, 2009


oh and wow, Consumers Distributing, now there's a trip down amnesia lane
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:05 AM on August 26, 2009


Who cares. And who even notices.

~100 commenters in this thread, for example.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:24 AM on August 26, 2009


post 1999-ish it just falls apart when you look at it funny.

I've had nothing but good results with my IKEA stuff. But I also don't move it, which is probably where things go wrong.
posted by smackfu at 11:30 AM on August 26, 2009


"The 2010 edition of the world’s third most printed publication (next to the Bible and Harry Potter), is now available online." That's mental. (That it's the 3rd most published thing in the world, not that it's online.)
posted by chunking express at 11:37 AM on August 26, 2009


Most people aren't graphic designers, so how big of an impact is this really going to be?

I doubt very much that this will affect Ikea's bottom line. At all.

Verdana is a font for the people. Futura is for typeface nerds who think we're living in an Ayn Rand novel.

You have no idea what you're talking about, which is fine, I just wish you were more upfront about it. Verdana was designed specifically for legibility on computer screens (by Microsoft for God's sake). It's utilitarianism depends directly on its use. Is a catalog a computer screen? Is a billboard a computer screen? Is this point I'm trying to beat you over the head with a computer screen? No.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:47 AM on August 26, 2009


And a petition has been started.
posted by sweetmarie at 11:48 AM on August 26, 2009


*Notes irony of reading a bunch of Veranda hatred in Veranda. Moves on*
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:55 AM on August 26, 2009


Yeah, imagine if they had switched to Arial. The type wonks would have had a coronary.
posted by smackfu at 12:00 PM on August 26, 2009


l33tpolicywonk: *Notes irony of reading a bunch of Veranda hatred in Veranda. Moves on*

Verdana is a perfectly good web (or screen) font. It's just horrible for print. Where's the irony?
posted by Dysk at 12:04 PM on August 26, 2009


So long as they pass the savings on to us.

And by us I mean me.
posted by mazola at 12:16 PM on August 26, 2009


People of "higher quality" -- and therein lies the problem at the heart of the hipsterdesigner ethos.

FTFY
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:18 PM on August 26, 2009


Anyway, the town-and-city place for cheap furniture over here is Argos - is there any equivalent in the States for people who don't drive or don't live near an Ikea?

There used to be catalog stores: the aforementioned Service Merchandise was my parents occasionally ordered from when we lived in suburbia. In the small rural town we later moved to, there were the Sears and the Montgomery Wards catalog stores. Both Sears and Wards had been around since the turn of the last century. I wouldn't say that things they sold were necessarily cheap, though; you could buy kit houses from them. There are several Sears kit homes around Oakland and Berkeley.

Now I imagine most people take a trip to WalMart for cheap furniture.

*Notes irony of reading a bunch of Veranda hatred in Veranda. Moves on*

My font is set to Futura. It is definitely not an ideal font for reading MetaFilter as white text on a dark background tends to make lowercase i bleed and morph into lowercase l. In fact, Futura is really a poor font even though it is a beautiful typeface. That's OK though; its screen based weaknesses serve to remind me of the things that made it the iconic font of its time. Unfortunately, Verdana in print conveys all of the romance of interoffice memos and email.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:20 PM on August 26, 2009


So:

Futura doesn't work well on a computer screen
IKEA wants to create a designer-instigated "visual identity" across both web and dead tree formats
Verdana works well on a computer screen

What option did they really have then, other than not listen to the people in #2?

Frankly, a font that doesn't work on a computer screen is a font that is halfway to being as outmoded as Gothic script.
posted by Rumple at 12:25 PM on August 26, 2009


l33tpolicywonk: *Notes irony of reading a bunch of Veranda hatred in Veranda. Moves on*

That's your fault for having your MeFi configured to display in Verdana. Mine uses Corbel and Calibri, two of the gorgeous fonts Microsoft commissioned for Office 2007.
posted by spitefulcrow at 12:27 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, I'm prepared to bet that there's a set of designers somewhere in the bowels of Ikea that are sitting around a dark wooden table and laughing their asses off.

Laughing, and laughing, and laughing. Laughing like drunken dictators.

They might pause for some elderflower drink or a rye cracker, but then they go back to laughing.
posted by aramaic at 12:29 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I look forward to the NY Times being printed in 'Georgia'.
posted by mazola at 12:30 PM on August 26, 2009


I went to an Ikea (Emeryville) for the first time about one month ago. I felt like I had walked into a Barbara Kruger exhibit minus the irony. All the MeFites hollering about the tragedy of Verdana of Futura, Verdana being meant for print and Futura being a much better typeface, blahdy blah, seem to overlook that Futura is a headline font and Ikea used it for copy as well as headlines.

From my point of view, Ikea promotionals and in-store displays might as well be printed in invisible ink given that the knowing reference to postmodern art is gone.

As for all the huff, I recommend that self-important graphic designers not in the employ of Ikea clench their fists (or any convenient muscle group) with all available might.
posted by mistersquid at 12:47 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think this is a move to standardise brand identity across all media, print and digital. The NYT should follow suit and print their paper in Georgia, the BBC broadcast in H.264/MPEG-4 640x480 to fit better on YouTube, Pantone narrow down their color offering to the standard 256 web tones and women require to be paid before men can talk to them.

Hold on, I'm told that women are already requiring that men pay before they talk to them.
posted by surrendering monkey at 1:17 PM on August 26, 2009


IKEA used Century Schoolbook for much of their body copy. I miss that more than the Futura.
posted by nicepersonality at 1:25 PM on August 26, 2009


Frankly, a font that doesn't work on a computer screen is a font that is halfway to being as outmoded as Gothic script.

You continue to be inflammatory about this and I can't understand why other than having a strange desire to continuously express your lack of knowledge of typography.

Futura works fine as a screen font. Maybe Verdana is more legible on a screen at lower resolutions, but Futura is absolutely legible and fine as a screen font AS WELL as a print font.
posted by cavalier at 1:40 PM on August 26, 2009


I don't know sans from serif, but when i got my Ikea catalolg last week it seemed surprisingly dull. Nothing looked interesting or inspiring and it went into the trash within a few days.

The important thing to realize is that the Ikea catalog has never adequately conveyed the Ikea experience.

The proper Ikea experience is going to one of the stores, rushing through the entrance maze and hitting the cafe first of all, where you gorge on about 20 Swedish meatballs, potato, cheap coffee and lingenberry soda. Following that, you stagger about a hundred yards before reaching the bedding department and decide to try out one of the beds for a half hour or so. You get awoken by your wife who wants something obscure in furniture, groggily argue with her over bookshelves and corner desks, and realize that her view of apartment furnishings is non-euclidean. After that, you head for the entrance, only to realize that the only way out is to follow a circuitous path through the whole damned store. Then you get to pull some boards out of a warehouse, stand in line for half an hour at the register, and pass by the Ikea food store on the way out where you realize that you just HAVE to have a couple bags of frozen meatballs and a gallon jug of concentrated lingenberry syrup. Finally in the garage you realize the only way you can get these heavy shelves home is to wind down the rear windows stick the boards through the car like short wings, and drive home on the freeway with the cold wind whistling in your hair, hoping that one of the boxes won't get snagged by a passing 18-wheeler.

That's what Ikea is all about.
posted by happyroach at 1:44 PM on August 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


just as when the T-shirt and jeans replaced the fedora and suit, our environment is sadly poorer for it

Wow. I completely disagree. I like not wasting money on ornamentation to impress my boss, coworkers, and clients. I'm mostly happy that quality of work replaced attractiveness, gender, race, etc as the factor most important to employees.

I like verdana, and I like Ikea. I've never had a problem with any of their products and when I'm done with them I can easily sell them on craiglist for half price.

It's ignorant shit like this that moves me ever closer to just giving-up and quitting design. I mean, there's just no point to practicing a craft if, in the end, no-one cares.

No one cares. Quit.

IKEA branding isn't something to get upset about in itself, but it really does look terrible and seems like another example of people with no expertise or love for design overruling those who know and care.

Hooray!
posted by mrgrimm at 1:52 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's what Ikea is all about.

I picture happyroach holding a blanket and starting off this speech with "Lights, please."

Is that wrong?
posted by jquinby at 1:55 PM on August 26, 2009


Who cares. And who even notices.

think of it like this. IKEA is about, supposedly, good Scandinavian design. That is it's founding principle anyway. Some of the hall marks of the northern European design movement was functionality, style, simplicity, and utility. These are the attributes of modernism.

Typographic tradition in northern Europe has also reflected this kind of modernist aesthetic. It is proven and well designed.

Futura was designed in the 1920's during the Bauhaus movement. While not strictly modernist like Helvetica it was designed with high utility, efficiency, and simplicity in mind.

Verdana is a "humanist" face and was originally designed for reading on at small sizes on a computer screen for Microsoft in 1996. Exclusively. Microsoft controversially created non-postscript True-Type faces to, among other reasons, avoid paying Adobe licensing fees. Prining these faces has always been problematic for high-end design. These were deeply flawed faces from a technical point of view. Not to mention the concession to a non-design corporate entity like Microsoft who implemented the faces more for it's own hegemonic reasons than for "design."
posted by tkchrist at 1:58 PM on August 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's ignorant shit like this that moves me ever closer to just giving-up and quitting design. I mean, there's just no point to practicing a craft if, in the end, no-one cares.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:52 AM on August 26


No one will ever care, including your clients. You do it because you love it regardless.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:00 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Brother Dysk: Verdana is a perfectly good web (or screen) font. It's just horrible for print. Where's the irony?

While I don't have stats on this, my guess is that more people read the digital version of the Ikea catalogue online than read the paper.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 2:23 PM on August 26, 2009


Verdana is the PERFECT font for IKEA.
posted by mr. strange at 2:30 PM on August 26, 2009


l33tpolicywonk: While I don't have stats on this, my guess is that more people read the digital version of the Ikea catalogue online than read the paper.

Given that IKEA spends 70% of its marketing budget on its catalogue alone (and then there's other physical advertising before we get to the website) I doubt it. That'd be a monumental waste of money if most people just read it on the web anyway. The catalogue is published in more copies in Europe alone than the bible is in the entire world each year.

It's really easy, being as we all are regular internet users to the point where we're willing to pay $5 for access to the ability to post stuff, to assume that everyone uses the web as their primary resource for finding information, but it just isn't the case.
posted by Dysk at 4:06 PM on August 26, 2009


I hate that stupid I. Although, you have to hand it to them for not picking Helvetica.
posted by fidgets at 4:44 PM on August 26, 2009



Futura works fine as a screen font. Maybe Verdana is more legible on a screen at lower resolutions, but Futura is absolutely legible and fine as a screen font AS WELL as a print font.


Maybe?

If your maybe = Verdana is more legible in any sense on the screen (and across all web applications and platforms including mobile phones) then it thereby is indisputably better for electronic purposes and should be used. It is therefore the designers who decided that the need for visual identity outweighed the relative aesthetic merits of these two fonts who are to blame.

If, on the other hand, your "maybe" means you think that, in fact, Futura and Verdana are equally good across all media then you have singularly failed to provide any evidence for this and indeed undercut your own argument with the admission that Futura is suboptimal at lower resolutions. Perhaps, though you are just being "inflammatory" .
posted by Rumple at 4:56 PM on August 26, 2009


It could be worse. They could have switched to Comic Sans.
posted by armage at 5:15 PM on August 26, 2009


Futura works fine as a screen font.

Even if that's true, it doesn't ship with Windows, so it would be subbed for 90% of the time anyway.

If browsers had reasonable custom-font support, maybe IKEA could have stuck with Futura.
posted by smackfu at 5:18 PM on August 26, 2009


Iosephus: Knowing how passionate some people can get over typography, I've always been tempted to post an AskMe about what fonts should I set for defaults on my browsers. I suspect I might get tempbanned for trolling, though. (Besides my amusement factor, I do think I'd enjoy hearing what typographic geeks would have to say on the matter, still.)

I'm actually really curious about this exact thing. Let us know, typography geeks!
posted by paisley henosis at 6:15 PM on August 26, 2009


I heard that Ikea is switching from lingonberries to boysenberries!

Please, everyone, don't shit your pants all at once, unless you have a Fniss handy!
posted by orme at 6:30 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


At some point comic sans is going to accumulate alot of counter cultural/subversive cache, like how underlining a crappy serif font sized at an oh so insouciant 25% of your whole page and margins to 0 or negative is nowish, then we'll all be fucked. Also, blink. It will probably be mainstreamed by some Americal Apparel like company, but tracking the lechy/fair trade/comic sans angle to something like fruit or crockery or any random page of lifestyle offerings out of a muji catalogue. Your pervily, albeit fair-, traded couch will be sold to you in blinking comic sans and you will love it.
posted by doobiedoo at 7:23 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Please, everyone, don't shit your pants all at once, unless you have a Fniss handy!

Yeah, a good snicker is always a must when you soil yourself.
posted by Dysk at 7:23 PM on August 26, 2009


Brother Dysk: Note that I'm not talking about the website as a whole but the online catalogue viewer, which is just a carbon copy of the catalogue in image form. Still, point taken.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:48 PM on August 26, 2009


l33tpolicywonk: the online catalogue viewer... on their website!
posted by Dysk at 9:16 PM on August 26, 2009


I'm actually really curious about this exact thing. Let us know, typography geeks!

I am not a hardcore typography geek but I can tell the difference between Helvetica and Arial so I feel somewhat qualified to answer.

Ironically if you're on Windows then Verdana is going to probably be your best sans font given the shit selection of fonts that ship with Windows. It's quite decent as a screen font but looks god awful in print (which is what the whole uproar is all about). On Vista some people are fond of Calibri but I don't like it. With its rounded edges it's like a semi-professional Comic Sans and the font is way too thin. I like Corbel though but again, only ships with Vista.

If you're on a Mac you get a somewhat awesome set of sans fonts out of the box. Helvetica (and the Neue version), Lucida Grande, Gill Sans and the illustrious Futurua which is the font which has been unceremoniously dumped.
posted by Talez at 11:15 PM on August 26, 2009


Ikea as "cheap": our last significant Ikea purchase was a two-person-sized couch. It was reasonably comfortable for a year or so, until the armrest came loose on one side. Not only was it so poorly made that it wasn't repairable, it was so poorly made that I was able to take it apart for disposal with my bare hands. It was literally cardboard and foam stapled to a few two-by-fours. Most of its structural integrity was provided by the upholstery.

We also have some Ikea shelves I use for my record collection. They work fine but at one point I put a box on it which was a little too heavy, punching a hole in the top of the unit. Which is how I discovered the thing was made of veneered styrofoam.
posted by Lazlo at 12:44 AM on August 27, 2009


I lived in a really shitty flat once. The bookcase in my room had a load-bearing book in it. When I took it out to move, the whole thing collapsed and the landlord blamed me for 'putting books on it'.
posted by mippy at 1:43 AM on August 27, 2009


I like not wasting money on ornamentation to impress my boss, coworkers, and clients. I'm mostly happy that quality of work replaced attractiveness, gender, race, etc as the factor most important to employees.

Art is ornamentation.

Ergo, you hate art.

Nobody has said anything about gender or race, so I'm wondering if perhaps you should see an Entomological Proctologist for your medical condition.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:41 AM on August 27, 2009


Civil_Disobedient, isn't that somewhat circular logic? I dislike wasting money on ornamentation, but ornamentation that I buy because I like it (e.g. art) rather than because society requires me to (e.g. a fancy suit for work).

One's a waste, because I don't want it, and it's being semi-forced upon me, the other isn't a waste, because I like and want it, and may buy it by choice.

(Yes, theoretically I may also buy suits by choice, because I like them - but in this context, I dislike suits and might like art.)
posted by Dysk at 5:53 AM on August 27, 2009


If your maybe = Verdana is more legible in any sense on the screen (and across all web applications and platforms including mobile phones) then it thereby is indisputably better for electronic purposes and should be used. It is therefore the designers who decided that the need for visual identity outweighed the relative aesthetic merits of these two fonts who are to blame.

You are a proponent of the digital age. I'm with you.

Verdana is not meant to be printed. It just doesn't hold up to much better typefaces.

The designer or their boss is wholly at fault for blithely jamming Verdana onto the printed catalog, whether their purpose was for visual identity (which you rallied against earlier, so I assume you're being facetious here) or whatever the hell whacky idea they came up with.

[...] evidence for this and indeed undercut your own argument with the admission that Futura is suboptimal at lower resolutions. Perhaps, though you are just being "inflammatory" .


You keep vacillating here on what your target is -- do you want to win an internet debate or do you want to have a discussion about typograhpy w/r/t Ikea?
posted by cavalier at 7:34 AM on August 27, 2009


TIME magazine article: The Font War: Ikea Fans Fume Over Verdana
posted by Lush at 11:54 AM on August 28, 2009


I have a feeling this has everything to do with their website. Futura doesn't really work as a screen font.

Also, now that IKEA is blue and yellow and Verdana all over, I'm kinda wonering when MetaFilter's gonna start shipping flat-pack furniture.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:43 AM on August 30, 2009


wondering, even
posted by Sys Rq at 11:44 AM on August 30, 2009


Flägg it and move on to the self-serve area, Sys Rq.
posted by cortex at 5:10 PM on August 30, 2009


Everyone is a 'typography expert' these days, as a natural extension of the ease of availability of DTP tools and web publishing, along with a more general awareness of design. A general awareness probably contributed to by the likes of IKEA providing affordable, conspicuously 'designer' products.

I don't think IKEA have changed enough to do any real damage to their brand, the colour, composition and photography of the catalogue all remain strong enough cues.

It's interesting listening to people making a distinction between print and screen faces. Verdana was designed for laser printing as well as painstakingly hinted for screen rendering, neither of which adversely affect it being used for offset printing. At small sizes in print, these adaptations will probably improve legibility (a factor of type design which is surprisingly subjective and hard to quantify) and at larger headline sizes become inconsequential.

The argument against Verdana seems to be less about objective criteria of what works (simply put, Verdana will work fine) but of a more complex issue of perceived 'taste' and good practice. Which, as far as my personal relativist leanings inform me, are culturally dependent and learnt rather than rock solid empirical truths.

As graphic design student (Central Saint Martins) I find the realisation that it essentially doesn't matter (at least not at this fine grained level of the difference between one geometric sans serif and another, slightly more humanist sans serif) simultaneously liberating and depressing. It's a personal conflict I've yet to resolve satisfactorily.
posted by george_morgan at 4:28 AM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yesterday I drove near an IKEA location and saw a new IKEA billboard advert. Fucking Verdana at 800 or whatever pt. I almost swerved off the damn road.

Ok, maybe not, but I railed over how cheap and common it looked. I know, I know, IKEA - cheap, but still: they stood out, now they just look like something standard typed up in black on yellow.

If it really was a world language issue, hire a godamn typographer to add the characters you need.
posted by cavalier at 5:45 AM on August 31, 2009


george_morgan, the screen vs. print issue for Verdana is not about whether it will legibly reproduce via a printer. It's about the aesthetics of printings, banners and other media being separate from the aesthetics of screen, as they should be, all being complete mediums in their own right. Sure I get your relativist angle but saying something is a construct is different from saying it shouldn't be appreciated. Styles of clothing are constructs! Nobody says they're interchangeable.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 12:36 PM on August 31, 2009


Non Prosequitur, I see your point. If nothing, complying to the aesthetics of individual mediums avoids creating a bland, homogenous visual environment. Which must be a good thing. Also your point about constructs not being interchangeable is genuinely enlightening, helping me on my struggle to rationalise these sorts of decisions.

Still, I can't help but admire something about the brazenness of using Verdana like this.
posted by george_morgan at 1:32 PM on August 31, 2009


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