Ikea Causes An Uproar

Right, I'll start with the controversial bit: Ikea has bid farewell to it's iconic Futura typeface, which it has been using for over 50 years, and has replaced it with Verdana. Yes, that's right, Verdana. Here's a quick before and after for you:

Before and after from Please Copy Me

However, before we get in to why Ikea have seemingly lost the plot, typographically at least, let's take a look back in time at an old Ikea catalogue, and how Ikea has developed as a brand. Ikea have actually been around for over 60 years, and first introduced their iconic catalogue back in 1951, although the oldest examples I can find are of this catalogue from 1965:

1965 Ikea catalogue (from ikke tikke theo)

The catalogue clearly hasn't changed much over the years; if you compare this 1965 example to the 2009 catalogue, they still retain a similar style and layout, with large, full page images of rooms, or close-ups of products on a white background, accompanied by the bold geometric letterforms of Futura.

Spreads from the 2009 catalogue

Futura has been consistently used for years (image from mgonamission's flickr set)

Ikea has been using Futura, in one form or another, for over 50 years, and the two have become almost synonymous. Some years ago, Ikea actually commissioned it's own corporate typeface, "Ikea Sans", which is a unique version of Futura, with more weights and a few slightly altered characters. They also commissioned an "Ikea Serif", which was based on Century Schoolbook, and the two have been used together in Ikea catalogues ever since, and have helped to make Ikea one of the most recognisable brands in the world. However, the 2010 catalogue uses Verdana throughout:

So why have Ikea unexpectedly made the decision to break off their ties with Futura and replace it with the rather odd choice of Verdana? Well, they say it's all about keeping the typeface consistent, whether the catalogue is for England, Russia, Asia, or online. They want to use the same font in every country, and with recent expansion into a number of Asian countries, this has not been possible with Futura. The other advantage of Verdana is that it is highly legible on-screen, and Ikea say that with their catalogue now being online as well as in print, Verdana was better suited to the job. There's no denying that Verdana is a good font for use on the web; it's one of the core web fonts, so is cross-browser compatible and very legible at small sizes, it was in fact developed for Microsoft by Matthew Carter specifically for use on screen. However, it was never intended for use in print, and at large sizes it looks rather clumsy and unbalanced.

Verdana has wide letterforms to make it easier to read as body copy on a monitor screen, but when used as a display face it loses all elegance; the terminals begin to look odd, and the kerning goes completely wrong. It's true that Futura/Ikea-Sans doesn't support characters for non-western alphabets, but surely there would have been a better choice than Verdana to unify catalogues around the globe? Many designers are suggesting even that it would have been wiser to commission a fully extended version of Ikea Sans with additional characters to support other alphabets.

A foreign Ikea catalogue from 2009, not set in Futura like the Western editions

The 2010 catalogue, set in Verdana

When the new catalogue was unveiled last week, it caused an uproar amongst the design community, with many bloggers criticising the move, and so many people mentioning it on Twitter that it made its way into Twitter's list of top trending topics. There is even an online petition to bring Futura back, which at the time of writing had 3,519 signatures. On the Typophile site alone there are hundreds of comments that have been made criticising the move to Verdana:

"Verdana is wrong on so many levels. It's less readable, prone to more clotting on the press or looking clotted, and forget about elegance. Myriad, Avneir, even Lucida or Vera would look much better"

"I just couldn’t imagine a serious catalog design employing a screen text face for printed display work. I really think that this is a nasty case of a business being cheap"
James Puckett

"This is a disastrous move by a company that's supposed to be design-led! The use of Verdana has the unfortunate effect of making any design look as if it's been quickly knocked out on a home computer with no thought or effort, just because it's (usually) the default typeface on any Windows machine"
Richard Welsh

"Rubbish. It’s a screen font, not graceful at display size, and lacking in subtlety"
Nick Shinn

"To me, Verdana just screams “default.” I love it at small sizes on screen (and maybe even in print), but if it’s any larger or used in other applications it just makes me think of terrible PowerPoint presentations"

It seems to me a great shame that such an iconic brand, which has remained consistent for decades has suddenly decided to get rid of one of the elements which made it so distinctive, and clearly lots of other designers feel the same way. However, it is yet to be seen whether people outside the design community will bat an eyelid. To the ordinary Ikea customer who doesn't care about the difference between a font and a typeface, and has never even heard of leading or kerning, it probably just looks like a load of letters.

(If anyone is interested, there's a similar article about Audi who had a typographic change recently, moving from Univers to a Verdana-esque face).

The Importance of Proof Reading

I wouldn't usually blog about something like this, but it put a smile on my face, so I thought I'd share it. If you too were lucky enough to get your hands on a copy of the Daily Express yesterday, then on page 40 you would have seen this headline:

Well, can he? The Daily Express, asking the important questions, as ever.

I can only assume that it is supposed to read "finally", and that someone at the Daily Express either made a rather extreme spelling error, or someone is perhaps leaving their job at the paper and wanted to go out with a bang.

I was surprised though that nobody had proof read the article and noticed the mistake, is it common in journalism for something to go to print without being checked first?

E Stings

It is my opinion that the people running E4 (the TV channel) are geniuses. They have the most original and exciting stings out of all the hundreds of TV channels that now flood our screens, and they didn't even have to empty out their wallets to get them. Instead of paying 'professionals' to come up with a series of stings, often with terrible end results (à la BBC2), E4 run an annual E-Stings competition, inviting their audience to create their own ten second sting and upload it to the E4 website. Of all the entries, the best 15 are chosen by a panel of judges, and are then broadcast on E4 on a regular basis (plus the overall winner gets a £5,000 commission). It works brilliantly, as no-one knows their audience better than the audience themselves, and the end result is that E4 end up with are set of stings that are all original and creative, and with a tone of voice which is spot on for their channel and brand.

I entered the competition myself this year, creating a stop-motion animated sting which I made in two days, using purple and white card and a selection of miniature people. This is my sting: (feedback appreciated!)

E-Trap - my entry to the E Stings competition 2009

The competition deadline is now closed, and E4 have had around 800 entrants in total this year, a selection of which can be viewed on the E Stings website. Some of the entries are very amateur, as is to be expected, but a number of them are very impressive indeed. I've picked out some of the best ones I've seen so far:

Monster VS Robot by johnny j

E4 Loco Land by AdamKellyMedia

Sheeps by nogunarmy

Mugs of Tea by us (design studio)

Invasion! by oliversin

French Books

I have absolutely no idea what these books are all about, as they're all in French. All I do know is that they're great to look at. They've been designed by David Pearson, the clever man behind the Penguin Great Ideas series of books.

München 2018 and Other Olympic Logos

It might seem a long time off, but already cities around the world are a planning bids to host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. One of the cities that has already been confirmed as an applicant is Munich in Germany, and they're currently in the process of trying to find a decent logo to represent their bid. I'm sure we're all aware by now just how much controversy can be caused by a bad Olympic logo.

To find a logo for their 2018 bid, Munich ran a competition and asked people to send in their own logo ideas, and from all the entries a jury have now narrowed it down just to three potential logos.

"Munich snow crystal" by Buttgereit und Heidenreich

"Munich at foehn" by Zeichen & Wunder

"The tracks of the games" by Atelier & Friends

The decision is now down to a public vote. Residents of Germany can go to the München 2018 website and vote for their favourite logo until August 21st.

My money is on number one, although I thoroughly dislike the typography. The typeface in number two is based on Din, commonly regarded as the German typeface, which I think is far more appropriate for their bid. If number two just lost the snowflake in the top left I think it would be a big improvement, it looks as though the designers couldn't quite make their minds up - "Shall we go with the mountain symbol or the snowflake symbol? Hmm... Lets use both".

At this stage the only two other cities confirmed as applicants for the 2018 Olympics are Annecy in France, and Pyeongchang in South Korea who are bidding for the third time running, after failed attempts to host the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics. Their proposed logos are both, in my opinion, less interesting than the offerings from Munich, although admittedly I have no idea what the Korean logo says.

Annecy 2018 logo
Pyeongchang 2018 logo

Of course, there's no guarantee that any of these logos will still be in use by the time the 2018 Winter Olympics come around. It's been the trend in recent years for the host city to have one logo during the application process, and then commission a new logo once they win their bid. For example:

Looking at all of these logos, I think they all show an improvement from the candidate logo to the official logo. I believe the London 2012 Olympic logo is the only one to go the other way, being changed from a good logo to a bad one. Oh dear.

Penguin Great Ideas IV

For anybody not familiar with the Penguin Great Ideas series, it's a series which brings together some of the most influential texts ever made, from the minds of the worlds greatest thinkers; from Confucius and Plato, to Darwin, Rousseau, Woolf and Orwell, to name just a few. They're the kind of books that you would read in a public place if you wanted to try and make yourself look 'oh-so-sophisticated' in front of everybody else.

However, the books could be full of anything, complete nonsense even, I think I would still want to buy them, because of their incredible covers. The idea originally started out as one set of 20 books, and they used the colour red to tie the set together and create a visual consistency for the covers. The books were all printed using only two colours, red being the spot colour, and black being the only other they could use, printed on to white stock. It's always a challenge designing for print in just two colours, but the end results were fantastic. The different illustrations and use of type on the covers help each book to remain interesting and unique, whilst the two colour treatment really ties the books together to create a set that is visually stunning. The covers are a very tactile experience, they are printed on smooth matte paper, and feature heavy embossing. They're the kind of books you want to run your fingers over, and jpgs really don't do them much justice.

Four covers from Penguin Great Ideas Volume I

Due to the success of the first set of 20 books, Penguin decided to release another set, again featuring black and white covers, but this time using blue as the spot colour.

Penguin Great Ideas Volume II

As well as the covers, the spot colour is also used on the spines of the books, volume one all having red spines, volume two with blue ones, which means they look fantastic when they're lined up on your bookshelf. Moreover, the spines are numbered, which is brilliant from a marketing point of view, because once you've got a few, you're no longer content with just seeing the numbers 2, 3, 7, 15 and 20 on your bookshelf, you want to buy the rest so you can have the full numbers 1-20 staring back at you.

The numbered spines which are a book collectors dream come true

In September last year they released volume three, choosing to feature green as the spot colour. David Pearson, the man behind the Great Ideas series, comments on the choice of colour:

"Green’s not a selling colour. It’s much harder than finding the right red or blue. Most reds sit nicely against black or white; green doesn’t have that presence. [...] I was getting more confident as a designer, so the decisions were getting bolder. This series is more image-led – getting rid of some of the white and flooding the cover with information. Predominantly white covers (with the green) would be a bit vague."
(Creative Review, August 2008)

Penguin Great Ideas Vol III

Close up of Orwell's Books vs. Cigarettes cover

Green spines from Vol III

And now of course it's time for volume number four. Having already used red, blue and green, this time they've gone for purple, and what a great shade of purple it is. So far they've only revealed the first ten covers, out of 20 in the set, but I think they're possibly the best yet.

Penguin Great Ideas Vol IV

Talking about the latest set of books, Pearson says:

"The formula is now so familiar to us that the main struggle is really an internal one and that’s for us to move the series somewhere new each time. Across this many titles each cover has to be distinct enough to maintain interest and – I hope – the boundaries we originally set ourselves have allowed enough flexibility to do this. There will always be a part of me that feels slightly sheepish at having produced so many of these things (80 so far) but much more so, I feel incredibly lucky to be working on a project that taps into the very specific skills I do have (and not the myriad that I do not)."
(Book Cover Archive, August 13th 2009)

Personally, I believe this cover would have to be my favourite out of the whole lot:

David Pearson has also announced that there will indeed be a fifth, and final, set, scheduled for release in 2010 to coincide with Penguin's 75th birthday. I cannot wait to see what colour they choose next.

For more information, and to view the full set, check out the ever wonderful Book Cover Archive.