Denver’s New Ikea: Friend or Foe?

There’s a new international retail store in town opening on Wednesday. It’s been big news for years for here in Denver. Since I moved to town three years ago there have been blogs dedicated to gossiping about the possibility of an Ikea opening here. Well, that time has finally come and you’d have to be blind to miss it. Literally. The bold blue and yellow store dominates the skyline from both i-25 and the entirety of Centennial, CO.

The monstrosity of the store and the sign itself has caused quite an uproar, but overall people here are VERY excited about the new store. Again, literally. Below is a scene of people who have been camping out since Sunday for the store opening on Wednesday. Apparently a new couch is worth 4 days of camping (with only 10 minute bathroom breaks allowed) in 95 degree weather (riddled with daily thunderstorms) for 38 “lucky” people (and a handful after who get a free chair!).

Image from the Denver Post

While the ex-New Yorker in me is excited about a new bed frame and a tv stand for our practically empty 900 square foot basement, I understand the need for balance and a not completely Ikea-dominated home. I find the controversy Ikea brings to be fascinating. Ikea is defined as:

An international, originally Swedish home products retailer that sells modern, utilitarian design furniture, much of which is assembled by the consumer

I think in general Ikea brought modern design to the average consumer. However, with the average consumer and international popularity, comes a glaring spotlight. Ikea has been involved in everything from issues of workers’ rights to sexism (for not featuring enough women assembling furniture in their ads) to a graphic design uproar over changing their catalog typeface. As a graphic designer, I not only take the most interest in the last issue, but I feel it also perfectly illustrates most people’s issue with the chain.

In 2010 Ikea changed their catalog typeface from Futura (a beautifully designed, well respected, albeit a bit overused, typeface) to Verdana (a cheap Microsoft developed web font) in order to “maintain consistency from web to print”. The New York Times wrote this excellent article why people were so upset about it, but here this is the key point (pulled directly from the article):

“Ikea is trading away a font with a tradition of modernist design, having elaborate associations, for one that has only one major association: with the computer screen. This is so offensive to many because it seems like a slap at the principles of design by a company that has been hailed for its adherence to them. It is, detractors say, an embrace of homogeneity and globalization, betraying all allegiance to the Ikea warehouse style that coats its version of modernity with a veneer of Swedish idiosyncrasy.”

By cheapening the look of the catalog itself with a free, poorly designed font available to all with the purchase of their computer, Ikea essentially fulfilled peoples’ criticism about the products being cheap, difficult to assemble, and overproduced. The thing I can’t understand about these issues is that those are obviously all true. I like Ikea, but I understand what I’m getting. I will be purchasing several pieces that otherwise I would not be able to afford to fill the space in our basement. I suppose it’s just another instance (a lesson I learn all too often) of you get what you pay for. As long as you’re aware of that, I’m not quite sure of what the issue is.

Anyone have any opinions on Ikea of their own?



One Comment on “Denver’s New Ikea: Friend or Foe?”

  1. Smart post, Caro. Now go get in line!

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