Story of Verdana, Part 2 – Religious Wars use of proper design vs. practicality, Ikea is attacked by design bigots

I apologize for those of you looking for data center news.  I am taking a tangent to make a point of religious wars like batteries vs. fly-wheels, air vs. liquid cooling.  People will argue for what is proper design.  But, sometimes there are business issues that over rule proper design.

Verdana was my crazy idea, and I wrote Story of Verdana Part 1 on Getting in Trouble.

Part 2 is about religious wars arguing what is proper design.  This happens in the data center often.  To illustrate the senseless arguing, look at this Times article that discusses the attacks on Ikea for using Verdana.

The Font War: Ikea Fans Fume over Verdana

By LISA ABEND Friday, Aug. 28, 2009

workers fixing the logo of Swedish furniture chain Ikea on a new built store in Schmira, eastern Germany.

Workers fixing the logo of Swedish furniture chain Ikea

Jens-Ulrich Koch / AFP / Getty

Thumbing through his local Swedish newspaper, Göteborg resident Mattias Akerberg found himself troubled by a full-page advertisement for Ikea. It wasn't that the Grevbäck bookcases looked any less sturdy, or that the Bibbi Snur duvet covers were any less colorful, or even that the names given to each of the company's 9,500 products were any less whimsical. No, what bothered Akerberg was the typeface. "I thought that something had gone terribly wrong, but when I Twittered about it, people at their ad agency told me that this was actually the new Ikea font," he recalls. "I could hardly believe it was true."

How hot was the topic?  Verdana is getting more tweets than Ted Kennedy.

"Ikea, stop the Verdana madness!" pleaded Tokyo's Oliver Reichenstein on Twitter. "Words can't describe my disgust," spat Ben Cristensen of Melbourne. "Horrific," lamented Christian Hughes in Dublin. The online forum Typophile closed its first post on the subject with the words, "It's a sad day." On Aug. 26, Romanian design consultant Marius Ursache started an online petition to get Ikea to change its mind. That night, Verdana was already a trending topic on Twitter, drawing more tweets than even Ted Kennedy.

In the below video, the urgency to choose Futura over Verdana is a life and death decision. :-)

The arguing from the type and design community is an argument over design, but they miss a functional strength of Verdana, its character set is int’l and free to use.

So why would Ikea make such a change? The very ubiquity of Verdana seems to be part of the font's appeal. Freely distributed by Microsoft, the typeface allows Ikea to use the same font in all countries and with many alphabets. "It's more efficient and cost-effective," says Ikea spokeswoman Monika Gocic. "Plus, it's a simple, modern-looking typeface."

Yes, there are better designs, but when it comes down to the economics and ease of use as a Windows system font Verdana has larger character set than designer fonts, and it is free.  Free.  So, as much as the type and design community argues their religious issues about design, can they say that there will be one more piece of Ikea furniture sold with a better typeface like Futura?  No!

It is much easier for online and print now that Verdana is the standard typeface.  Don’t get me started on font metrics, and reflowing text.  This was too much part of my prior life, and glad it in the past.  I’d rather discuss data center metrics.

Keep this story in mind the next time you are in a data center discussion and there is a religious battle over the technology used to power and cool the data center.  Are you having a Futura vs. Verdana argument?