posted by Thom Holwerda on Thu 3rd Sep 2009 23:10 UTC
IconYou probably missed this earth-shattering news, but Ikea IKEA, the Swedish furniture and other assorted home decoration products company, has switched fonts. The company always used the Futura font for its catalogues, but the latest edition has ditched it in favour of Verdana. This has caused quite the stir among typography geeks.

IKEA has a name. The Swedish company is the world's largest furniture manufacturer, and it obtained that distinction by producing stylish but affordable products. Here in The Netherlands, you'll be hard-pressed to find a household without IKEA products, and I, too, have my apartment stuffed with their products.

IKEA has always used a modified variant of the Futura font in its catalogues and promotional material, but with the release of the latest catalogue, they switched to Verdana. The backlash on the internet is of almost epic proportions: typography geeks the world over are fuming over IKEA's change of fonts.

Comparing the IKEA fonts.

Typography geeks argue that Microsoft's Verdana is designed for on-screen use, and not for print materials. Futura is superior, according to them, so why didn't IKEA just use Verdana online, and Futura for print materials? "I shudder at the thought of hovering Verdana-emblazoned billboards and bus stop ads," Jamie Latendresse writes.

So, why is Verdana well-suited for on-screen use? "It has open, wide letterforms with lots of space between characters to aid legibility at small sizes on screen," explains Simon l'Anson, creative director at Made by Many, a London-based digital-consulting company, to Time Magazine, "It doesn't exhibit any elegance or visual rhythm when set at large sizes. It's like taking the family sedan off-road. It will sort of work, but ultimately gets bogged down."

It is argued that the switch to Verdana is done for cost-saving reasons; apparently, the font is better suited for internationalisation (use in different alphabets). This means IKEA can more easily use the same font across all the countries it operates in, which should save costs for the company.

Now, I'm sure many of you are wondering why this story is on OSNews. Well, we all use our computers quite regularly, so I'm sure many of you have your own ideas and preferences when it comes to the fonts you prefer to use on your computers - and I think it's interesting discussion material.

While I am a huge fan of Microsoft's Trebuchet MS (beautiful!) my actual on-screen font preference for user interfaces are some of the fonts Microsoft introduced with Windows Vista: Segoe UI and Consolas (the names more or less imply where they are used in Windows 7). Both of them were designed by Microsoft's Typography division specifically for their intended roles.

Segoe UI and Consolas.

What's your font preference?

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