Ikea's August announcement that it would change their signature typeface from Futura to Verdana caused an uproar in the design world. Although the reasons for this uproar are many, perhaps what angers designers most is that Ikea's decision violates its own design aesthetic. In a way, Futura is the typographic equivalent of Ikea's furniture: spare yet functional, based on simple geometry. By rejecting a typeface which has stood the test of time (and print volume - Ikea's catalog is the third most popular publication of all time, after the Bible and the Harry Potter series) in favor of a typeface designed specifically for the computer screen, Ikea sends a different message from the one they have left unchanged for over 50 years. This medium change, mostly due to the fact that Verdana is distributed free of charge by Microsoft, could be described cynically as the triumph of a difficult market over good design.
We happen to think that the differences aren't as noticeable for the main pages which mostly feature images, but that the pages with larger amounts of body copy are dramatically cheapened; you can see the difference between the past and present designs at www.idsgn.org. An excellent article by Edward Rothstein in The New York Times further outlines the controversy.