Paul Renner’s Futura is an amazing typeface, equally adept at playing 60s modernism as timelessly contemporary cool. Some have made iconic use of it: A. Volkswagen (an Erik Spiekermann variant), B. fave-director Wes Anderson (not just for titles but in-film signage), C. Barbara Kruger (bold italic), D. Draplin Design Co./Field Notes and E. Ikea… whoops, until now.
Yes that’s right. Ikea just switched from their bold, iconic use of Futura to Verdana, and their stated reasoning reflects a very poor thought process. They want to use the same type for all countries, including Asian ones, and Verdana has Asian character sets. And yet: there’s tons of modern monoweight Asian character sets that would match Futura perfectly well. They want to match the web to print. Yes, that does get a bit tricky, but other companies have found workarounds, and besides haven’t these people read “Harrison Bergeron“? Handicapping your display signage by putting it in a web text face just so that everything can match, for shame! So Futura doesn’t have Asian characters: Verdana doesn’t have effin display weights, it’s made for onscreen legibility! Use it large (as Ikea is bound to do) and it looks plain goofy instead of awesome like big Futura. Will every piece of furniture be available only in websafe colors?
There’s a lot of outcry and discussion on this (see designer discussion on typophile, mostly nondesigner discussion on metafilter, a good visual post on idsgn, the online petition, sets on flickr, etc.) and our hope is they quickly reverse their decision. The CIO claims that their identity is not wrapped up in Futura, but we disagree. See this 1965 catalog for what we mean.