Saturday, September 12, 2009

Upset at IKEA Logo Change? Get a Life.

Did IKEA really change its logo? Not as far as I can tell – can you? It’s weird, you know – talking about a Japanese logo one day, and stumbling across an apparent change to the IKEA logo type font that “erupted into controversy” – according to Houston Chronicle reporter Mary Tuma – the next.

Tuma poses an interview with Rice marketing prof Vikas Mittal: “…about ways companies can prevent brand blunders.” Mittal’s main point is that companies changing their logos really ought to consult with their customers first:

A typical redesign can take up to two years and cost $15 million to $20 million for a large company. Yet, there isn’t too much research done on how it affects their customers. Anything from size, typeface to color can trigger different associations…A lot of customers against this change see themselves connected to what IKEA represents – progressive, modern style. Changing the font jeopardizes all of those associations.

Fine except that it doesn’t appear IKEA changed the type font of its well-known logo. The company changed the typeface used in its catalogs, its corporate typeface, to Verdana from Futura.

Not logo change - body copy style change. Big diff – and virtually no difference at all, not in the grown-up world of life, the Universe and everything. It may be that some type designers and fans are strangely upset – one blog respondent said, “IKEA should change to Verdana. Futura is too good for IKEA, and they don’t really deserve to use it.”

There are several insightful explorations of the IKEA “font fiasco” online. Read the coverage provided by Jennifer Farley of Laughing Lion Design for a more complete review of what’s what. (The IKEA catalog cover images come from Brandacadabra’s Marius Ursache, who writes that “…as a designer, I feel betrayed.” Read his comments next.)

Gracious. I missed this minor outbreak of brand silliness amid the media’s far bigger reporting screw-up of the US Coast Guard’s Potomac River exercise yesterday. So, first, thanks to reporter Tuma for getting this “backlash” in front of me, even as I seriously question just how serious a problem IKEA really has.

Second, as even designer Ursache admits, “…this isn’t world hunger.” It’s not even worth a puff piece in the Chronicle. Ta for Saturday...

9 comments:

Jeff Austin said...

Here is my 2 cents about all the drama concerning the new typeface. Like another company that rebranded last year with a new unattractive blue and white mountain logo, I have no control over it, it is what it is.

Personally, I don't like the new IKEA brand, but I don't shop there anyway and there are too many other important issues in life to fret over.

However, the logo itself did change, see link:
http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1919127,00.html

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Thanks for your response, Jeff - you always do a great "thinking" job. The link you provided is to the increasingly famous Time magazine article about the IKEA type change.

I have read this article top to bottom three times (four after you provided the link again) and nowhere in it do I see anything about a change to the IKEA logo itself.

Am I wrong about this? If so, I'll gladly apologize to everyone. So far as I've been able to tell, though, it's a bodycopy change.

Susan Reeves said...

Richard, I find no evidence of a logo change. The font was changed because Verdana is available for free, cheap, and in all marketplaces. Newspaper, catalog and web promotions can all access this readable but not too distinctive font for ease of use and consistency throughout regions. This Microsoft font still rules over a lot of general communications. (This will change. Stay tuned to new technologies.)

Meanwhile, note this article regarding the IKEA hub bub... http://www.sitepoint.com/blogs/2009/09/01/ikea-and-the-font-fiasco/

Personally, I like Verdana in small sizes for email and web and even print for readability on screen. As a key part of corporate identity - not.

Jennifer Farley said...

Hi Richard
Thanks for mentioning the article I wrote for Sitepoint and also the link to my own site. Much appreciated.

You are absolutely right, the IKEA logo did not change at all. It was the font used in their catalogue and all associated print material that changed, but not the actual logo font.

Mary Jo Martin said...

Well, maybe I'm one of those type snobs, but I like Futura better. But, Verdana does work better on the web. One evil thing that crosses my mind is that Ikea got lots of PR out of this. Too bad they didn't hire Cynapsus to do some research for them - they might have been able to sharpen the PR focus even more.

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Thanks, Mary Jo. Part of the pitch being made by Vikas Mittal, the Rice professor, is that companies ought to do more stakeholder research to support rebranding efforts.

I don't know that IKEA researching anything as relatively innocuous as a catalog typeface would have helped - especially given that most of the raucous negative reactions come from a small number of graphic designers.

These don't represent a significant percentage of the IKEA customer base.

Marius said...

Richard,

Good to see someone follow up on Verdanagate (as the Brand New guys dubbed the Ikea font fiasco), even though it started collecting dust.

My point as a designer and consultant is that identity matters are a strategic issue. Companies should not listen to the public when changing their logo or visual vocabulary. After all, branding and identity are strategic matters that need to be dealt with in the management process.

My petition to Ikea was sometimes seen in a wrong way. What I meant was not to convince Ikea to give up Verdana because people say so—but rather to remind them that their success and business strategy are based on good & affordable design principles.

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Marius - thanks for checking back on this. I believe in your point about the strategic nature of branding and identity, one that's especially appropriate in terms of "good and affordable design principles."

Another mass retailer, Target, has carried this flag quite strongly into the American public's attention.

It is possible that "Verdanagate" is not quite dusty yet.

Richard Laurence Baron said...

For those of you that may not have noticed, Ikea's US advertising is in review:

"With an eye toward integrating its general-market and Hispanic creative, home furnishings giant Ikea has hired consultancy Pile + Co. in Boston to oversee a review of its domestic chores."

See:
http://www.brandweek.com/bw/content_display/news-and-features/direct/e3if794cdb19b49a10cc43dfa52a94d22f3