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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Does the type matter?

Typophiles have been up in arms over a furniture retailer and its choice of typeface. If you're missing the controversy, type "verdana" into Google to see how much talk is circulating about Ikea's choice of fonts for their new catalog and in-store signs.

If you're not familiar with the typeface, Verdana is a font developed for easy on-screen reading at very small size. It's not an attractive typeface, and immediately drew massive criticism by designers, marketers, and type developers.

Ikea, please get rid of Verdana.

But according to Ikea spokesperson Camilla Meiby, "We're surprised. But I think it's mainly experts who have expressed their views, people who are interested in fonts. I don't think the broad public is that interested."

True, designers, typophiles, and marketing experts will know why they do not like this move, but just because the general public does not know what the typeface is does not mean their opinion does not matter. By the end of the week I began seeing comments on Twitter from people who visited Ikea and mentioned the signs in the store were unpleasant.

According to the AP, Ikea said that in order to reach many people in many different ways, it needed a font that works in both digital and print media. Read between the lines and we see the novice brand management mistake that nearly every marketing firm makes. The belief that design consistency is brand management. While it is important to have consistent elements to your brand design, it is your product (which includes customer experience) that matters most. Put another way, Ikea was more concerned with a consistent use of a typeface rather than asking their customers what they like.

Does typeface matter? Yes. Your printed materials need to be pleasant to the consumer. First & foremost, your customers need to be happy. There are elements of your design that should be consistent so that customers make the connection and feel the trust you have established with your brand. But getting wrapped up about the ease of website text and trying to make it consistent across all mediums is ignoring aesthetics.

Just because your customers are not graphic designers, does not mean their tastes don't matter. Never underestimate your customers.

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