Ikea and Verdana

I just can’t get over it. Just the other day I witnessed its first incarnation in its full horror. They’ve actually gone and done it. Ikea has started implementing Verdana. At the dawn of a new era in webfonts they’ve opted for an aged and flawed typeface. One of the more advanced brick & mortar presences online has stumbled on the eve of a more advanced typographical web. There’s only one word that captures this ignominious feet. Fail.


Verdana does have some positive characteristics. It’s in my view the best typeface when we want good legibility and small font-sizes. It’s exaggerated features come to the fore when pixel real estate is in short supply. These features make it rather distinct, it’s a true webfont and ubiquitous across browsers. If browsers suddenly dropped Verdana the web as whole would look different, some would think it was broken.

Ikea’s excuse falls short, in that they want the font to be universal for print and web in all markets including Asia. Which is fine but why adopt a single font policy at all? This also illustrates that they don’t grasp the current state of the web. We no longer surf 800 pixels wide. Widescreen monitors are cheap and cheerful, they’re the norm. We no longer need small fonts to ingest large amounts of data on a single view. Larger screens, higher dots per inch and an overall larger font-size scream out for more. Arial, Verdana, Times New Roman and Courier will soon be sitting on the sidelines. Those who sharpen the cutting edge of the web are going all out on typefaces. With or without the help of the foundries. sIFR may have been the wedge and now the typefaces are coming. One way or another.

It is also fair to say that Ikea need not jump on the current developments. Even though, the choice stills seems rather flawed.
The overiding factor that makes this a poor move on Ikea’s part is that Verdana is a screen (low pixel based) font and isn’t very suitable for print or even as a display font. These things don’t make it a good choice from a branding point of view. The current utilisation of the web (high resolution monitors) negate Verdana’s selling points.
When we look at Verdana from a purely typographical and aesthetic view it seems warped and cumbersome. In fact in larger sizes the font becomes awkward and difficult to read. Those exaggerated features become great big obstacles for readability and legibility. All the things that Ikea is not. This reveals a blind spot in Ikea’s decision making. Is this the start of Ikea’s decline? In that respect the choice for Verdana, however infuriating, make sense.

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