Ikea has used the geometric bauhausesque Futura (left above), designed by Paul Renner around 1925, as its signature font for some fifty years. It’s a font that emphasizes the Platonic essence of letterforms in an interesting way but provides little forward momentum, so to speak, for extended reading.
Verdana (designed by Matthew Carter around the late 1990s, I think; at right above) is a more “humanist” (the letterforms to some degree evoke traditional Renaissance pen letterforms) font that was designed for use at small sizes on computer monitors. To this end it has a large x-height, large counters (openings), broad character widths, and other features that help to identify letters and tell similar ones apart at small sizes.
A lot of typeheads are distressed by Ikea’s decision, largely because Ikea is using Verdana as a display face, a function for which it wasn’t really intended.
Well, true, it doesn’t look as good, so why are they making the change? I think it’s because people under a certain age find Verdana comfortable and familiar because they see it all the time on their computer monitors. So it might feel friendlier to the children of the computer age than a stick-and-ball face from the 1920s.
It’s also possible that in the long run Ikea is intending to phase out its print catalogue and go online only. A big virtue of Verdana online is that it resides on practically everyone’s computer, so you don’t have to worry about font substitutions.
My guess is that few people outside the type world will notice or care about the change. How do you feel about it?
Update, 9/04: Dueling petitions
image via fontblog