As Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi, reports, Ikea have caused a bit of a storm by making a change in the way they communicate with us. After 50 years of hard work, gone is the customized version of Futura to make way for Verdana. Sound familiar? Well that’s because Verdana is one of those so-called ‘web-safe’ fonts so it’s pretty standard on the Net and probably the machine on which you’re reading this.
Designed by Matthew Carter and included by Microsoft as part of their operating system, Verdana quickly spread like a rash through most Office software applications and Internet Explorer on both Mac OS and Windows way back in 1996. According to Wikipedia (yeah, I know), Verdana is available on 97.46% of all Windows and 94.13% of the world’s Macs, making it the 5th and 6th most common font respectively.
And therein lies the flashpoint of this storm, (currently being driven by on online petition to reinstate Futura) at least for the design denizens and typeface snobs, that is. And as I write this slightly irked by the fact it will appear in Arial rather than the far more elegant Helvetica, I guess I count myself amongst those cocking a snoop. Created purely to play ball on the Internet, Verdana holds little sway with designers. The same designers and indeed a wider communication-savvy community, who have come to love Ikea’s ethos of stylish, low-budget products for all. The emotional ties that Ikea have established with millions cannot be understated. How many of us have set up our first homes with functional flat-packs and great looking household stuff; stuff that keeps us braving the horrendous weekend crowds even now in our should-know-better middle age?
That love has nurtured a relationship with the public since Ikea’s inception in 1943. And with the seemingly harmless introduction of Verdana as Ikea’s main body font, I think many feel that trust has been dented.
Will the outcry and accompanying online petition, currently running at around 6,000 signatures, make Ikea reverse their decision and stick with the much more appropriate, Swedish-speaking Futura? Who knows, but there is definitely one huge positive that Ikea can take out of all the furore: it has proved that consumers feel they own the Ikea brand. And when there is that depth of feeling, you know you’re a big-league brand that’s well and truly part of the family.