Food for thought‘[...] do not think that good design can make a poor product good, whether the product be a machine, a building, a promotional brochure or a business man. But [...] good design can materially help make a good product reach its full potential. In short, [...] good design is good business.’
Thomas J. Watson Jr., IBM CEO

IKEA Sans replaced by Verdana

August 25, 2009, 11:48 AM

I dare you find a designer who doesn’t love, or at least respect IKEA for its design dedication. Scandinavian design is almost synonym for functional design, well-thought design, void of any unnecessary elements. From their simple and practical packages to functional but homey stores and to their beautifully designed catalogue (3rd most printed publication in the world, after the Bible and yes, Harry Potter), IKEA has always been true to great design—I still remember how I asked every relative or friend that went abroad to bring me back an IKEA catalogue to draw from as I was studying for my design college exams (there was no IKEA in our country at that time).

Starting this summer, however, IKEA decided to give up the beautiful IKEA Sans (a very well designed Futura offspring) and IKEA Serif for Verdana, the omni-present web typeface, designed for Microsoft. As the Cracked fellows usually say: dear God, why?

Futura, designed by Paul Renner, is one of the best geometric typefaces, a timeless chef-d’oeuvre, which, unlike Helvetica, never seems to loose its human touch, its friendly-but-practical look, no matter where it’s used (Helvetica has been so overused through the last 50 years that it has practically lost any personality, becoming a shape-shifter, a typeface that can express almost anything, depending on the context). All IKEA’s communication, from catalogues to retail graphics were heavily based on their modified Futura, making everything look clean, clear and timeless. Verdana, even if it is a very readable typeface on screen, can’t even be compared to Futura when it comes to display usage. Microsoft-related products, as we all know, are anything but beautifully designed.

Take a look and see for yourself:
beforeandafter_futura-vs-verdana

Before and after:
beforeandafter_ikea

I’ll get the new IKEA catalogue soon, but, sadly, there will be one reason less to enjoy browsing it. As they say, it will be just business—nothing personal.

(via Please copy me, Typophile — Thanks Mihai)

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Update:
Last night IKEA’s outdoor was changed, down went good old IKEA Sans, up came Verdana. Take a look for yourself:

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It is quite clear now. While in small sizes Verdana is decent enough, especially with its italics, on large prints it’s bad. IKEA Sans’ beauty was enough to sustain a phrase written on white background, with a lot of white space around. Verdana simply can’t do half as good. It looks cheap, amateurish. If I didn’t know this was a global decision I would’ve thought the local agency just let some rookie do the outdoors late at night, in a haste.

Another thing that keeps bugging me: there’s talk now all over the place, the entire community debating (most disapproving IKEA’s move). Few, however, mention that IKEA has replaced their own typeface, IKEA Sans, and not Futura. This is important since their typeface was customized, quite easy to tell apart from Futura and Century Gothic, its ‘parents’. And easy to extend with support for some new languages. I doubt IKEA’s sales dropped much during the crisis considering their target (take a look at McDonald’s, they’re booming), so jumping to a cheap, innapropiate typeface just because it’s a bit cheaper on the short run seems to me like very bad management.

But, of course, nobody can tell for sure if it really matters. Sales may drop or may rise, but nobody will link them to a typeface. After all, most people can’t tell the difference between serif and sans. For them it will be a change that never happened: “hasn’t it been like this all the time?”

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Later update:
IDSGN posted a thorough article about the look of the new IKEA catalogue compared to the former — Just as I thought after peeking around the UK website, Verdana looks good in the catalogue thanks to careful typesetting (extensive use of negative trackin, leading and italics). The problem is that the catalogue is a carefully designed product, made over several months, while normal communication will be done locally, most of the times by less-experienced designers or art directors (I’m talking about Romania and other countries with less general expertise in graphic design than UK, Sweden or Netherlands, for example). Type will be most of the time set with the default settings, without the thorough care the catalogue is designed with. Take a look:

after-1
after-2

———

Mr. Kottke agrees, Verdana is not the best idea, and posts a link to a 1965 IKEA catalogue, which would sell just as well today.

———

Things really got big: yesterday I was interviewed by Lisa Abend for the Time Magazine! Read The Font War: Ikea Fans Fume over Switch to Verdana. Mr. Marius Ursache from Grapefruit also got interviewed, being the author of the online petition. Here’s my paragraph:

“They went cheap, in other words,” counters Bucharest designer Iancu Barbarasa, who blogged about the font change on his website. If he sounds somewhat bitter, there’s a reason. With its attention to the curve of even a $9 lampshade, Ikea has become renowned for its understanding of good design. “Designers have always thought of Ikea as one of their own,” Barbarasa notes. “So now, in a way, the design community feels betrayed.”

I can’t express what joy it brings me to be cited next to London, Tokyo and Melbourne designers. Thank you, Lisa (you can read the whole interview here).

———

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Sketchnotes by Mike Rohde

August 12, 2009, 4:45 PM

Take a look at this:
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Looks nice, right? Well, it’s a “sketchnote”, a quick drawing while Mike Rohde opend up his iPhone 3GS package (more photos on his flickr). Sketchnotes seem to be more efficient (not to mention, a lot more pleasing to the eye) than regular notes. Associations Now Magazine decided to let Mike design his interview on the subject, titled “Are you a visual thinker?”. You can view Mike’s design process here. Here are some images for apetizers—can’t help but admire his hand-drawn type:

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Later edit:
Mike’s posted the PDF of the entire article, thanks to many requests. Get it from here.

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Designer fun — who cares about typography anyway?

June 3, 2009, 10:26 AM

PvP just made my day, coming up with one of the funniest strips ever (I’m talking about designers’ kind of fun, of course). Not to mention true. Many times I amuse myself realising how many of my shopping choices are influenced by packaging and typography—whoa, that olive oil bottle uses Rotis for the ingredients, look how tiny and legible it is! :)).

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You can see the strip in full size on their site.

(via FontFeed)

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Design Challenge — something for the soul

, 12:13 AM

For quite a while now I’ve been dreaming, hoping, pondering, trying to come up with some sort of solution to force myself in working and doing more of the stuff that I like, that I chose to do for the rest of my life—design. ‘Unfortunately’, we’re not as lucky as Michelangelo, Durer or other masters, we have internet, instant messaging, tv and so on, so many things that distract us from what we truly like to do.

Eventually, a solution came up: to give myself a “non-comercial” theme to think and design, every two weeks or so. Worried as I was that I wouldn’t be serious enough to keep doing it on a regular basis, I managed to convince some of my friends to join in, hoping that if I wouldn’t design for my eyes only, at least for them I would :) (I still remember very fondly my college years when I’d work and wait unpatiently for the end of the semester when everybody would show their projects—competing with them was the true school).

So, this is it: Design Challenge.
A flickr account where every two weeks all the members post their work on the previously given theme. Working only for the sheer pleasure of challenging wits and talent.

Here’s a glimpse of how the set with the works looks:
Design Challenge

Since all the members are romanian, comments are not in english. But you’ll get the general idea, trust me. Enjoy :)

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Comic Sans — to hate or not to hate

May 2, 2009, 12:23 PM

A fun, interesting and tought-provoking short documentary about the typeface we all love to hate: Comic Sans. Makes you think that nothing must be taken lightly, especially when it comes to human perceptions (and design in general).

Here’s a challenge:
try designing a logo using Comic Sans (that’s not for a cartoon magazine, of course :P).

Comic Sans from Sam and Anita on Vimeo.

(via design observer)

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Type jewelry from Base Design

March 27, 2009, 6:31 PM

Base Design developed this insanely beautiful type-based identity for Karen Karch, a NY jewelry store. I’d love to see how their store looks like, how the alternating type is further applied to POS, stationery, livery and so on.

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(thanks go to Alin)

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The right kind of ammunition

March 6, 2009, 2:39 PM

Catching some office gossips like San Francisco designers being the best among international design offices like Pentagram and MetaDesign, I was curious to see who exactly was or were partner-in-charge at Pentagram San Francisco. In comes Robert Brunner (the other Pentagram partners are Kit Hinrichs, designer and Lorenzo Apicella, architect).

Reading about Mr. Brunner on wikipedia, I was startled to find out that he leads a team at Ammunition LLC, just after reading that he had joined Pentagram in 1996. Browsing the Ammunition website, I found out he is no longer with Pentagram, since he left with his team to form his own company in july 2007 (press release). In 2008 he was joined by two other top professionals, Creative Director Brett Wickens and Band Strategist Matt Rolandson, both former leaders from MetaDesign San Francisco.

The interesting thing is that Mr. Brunner was previously the Director of Industrial Design at Apple, between 1987-1996, and was the one that hired and later proposed Jonathan Ive as director after his departure (you can watch the youtube interview).

Ammunition specializes in product design, identity design and interaction design, and you can easily see from their portfolio their work is of highest quality. And of course, they have a smart, classy logo.

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Amsterdam Fatastic Film Festival

January 12, 2009, 7:40 PM

Talking about Amsterdam designers, here’s another nice logo, yet again for another film festival—AFFF. The typeface is Amplitude, set in black, designed by the prolific Christian Schwartz.

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Too bad I can’t find out who made the logo.

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Jetset's Amsterdam Film Night

, 7:29 PM

Experimental Jetset is an Amsterdam-based (lucky bastards!) design studio. Among many cool projets (again, swiss style lives on), they developed the identity of The Amsterdam Film Night festival:
jetset-afn-1.jpg

The following year, for the second edition of the movie festival, they made this poster, one of my favourites (also featured in the documentary Helvetica):

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I really like the simplicity of the black&white visual identity:

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Here are some beautiful badges, they’re from another project they did, but they’d sure go well with the rest of the AFN identity:

experimental_jetset_dazzle_buttons.jpg

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Büro für Gestaltung — finest german rigour

January 9, 2009, 6:06 PM

Büro für Gestaltung means literally ‘office for design’. Quite a simple and odd name, considering that their expertise ranges from graphic design to environmental design, product design and even bits of architecture. But in the end, design is a very generous word, so it can easily encompass all work made for the benefit of men.

Few design companies have such thorough websites presenting their work. One interesting thing is that most of the team are women, a not-so-often thing in the design world, especially considering the very rational approach the company has. Not to mention their youth, another thing to admire, since they’ve been involved in so many big projects, both for big companies and state/local officials. It’s a great thing to be able to see how their design solutions were developed as a whole.

Take your time, watch and learn—steal if you can ;)

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