So many fonts, so little time!

Colorful watercolor aquarelle font type handwritten hand draw doI love fonts and hate them at the same time. Used well, they can make a presentation shine. Used badly, they can ruin an otherwise interesting presentation. How do you know what font to use and when? Let’s take a look shall we?

According to Stephen Coles, the author of The Anatomy of Type, “We like best what we see most.”  We get used to using a font and use it for everything, which leads me to think of the proverb, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Both comments are true, when it comes to fonts. That is why, a presentation, should use a more familiar font for the content, and use something a bit different, dare say I daring, for the main points/titles. Different is attention grabbing and when you are trying to keep people’s attention that is a good thing.

Here’s an example of using different fonts for a title:

font-example1Notice I haven’t added color. That’s because I want you to look at the font without any additional information. The first font, Beyond Wonderland, has some cool curly letters and evokes a feeling of a children’s book for me and apparently the author as well, hence the name. It’s also got some other stuff going on that makes it look a bit old and messy, which I assume is the author’s intent. Would this be a good font for most presentations? No, probably not, but it might be a good fit for a presentation on fairy tales, or children’s books. Would it be a good fit for anything other than the title, absolutely not! It would drive the reader crazy, even if you were following the rule of less is more when doing a presentation.

san-serifThe second title is one of my favorite standard fonts, Calibri. Simple, upright and easy on the eye. This is a good font for title or text. It is a sans serif font, which means it has no serif or bar at the bottom, top or sides of the letters (see another example of a sans serif font to the left). If you use it for title and text be sure to change it up a little. Use a different, but complementary and easy to read color. Not sure what to choose, use a color wheel and pick the opposite color to your main presentation color. For example, blue is the opposite of brown and stands out nicely without being jarring to the eye. Calibri also passes a test I use for fonts, particularly if I am using the other than once in a presentation, it is easy to read even when partially covered. If you take a piece of paper and cover the bottom two thirds of the font and can still read it, that is a good font to use. Clearly, that would not work as well for Beyond Wonderland. A great way to choose your color is with Adobe Color CC. It is a free program, but you do need to create an Adobe account if you don’t already have one.

serifThe third font is Copperplate Gothic Bold. It is a serif font. Serif fonts were based on the chiseled writing on Greek statues and buildings as a way to stop the letter or chisel marks from extending further (see another example of a serif font to the left).  It’s a nice, easy to read font, but it is all caps. This is okay for a title, depending on the font, but not regular text. The reason it is okay, is because even though it is all caps, the caps are different in size. This is easier on the eyes, but should be used sparingly.

I created a Photoshop image of all three, because these are not typical web fonts, although that is changing and for another post. These are fonts for presentations and there are lots of them out there for free. A word of caution though; be careful when you download a font. Be sure that you are following any guidelines, which should be posted with a font. Not following the guidelines could result in a law suit, which is never a good thing. Some sites I like are:

  • – A great site that is easily searchable.
  • 1001 Fonts – Another great site that has the addition of allowing you to type a word or words you want to use with the font and seeing them in the font. It makes it much easier to choose.
  • Font Squirrel – Another good site that has you choose download type, so for example, if you are using the font for an e-book, there might be a cost associated with it. It tells you up front which are free and which are not.

There are many more, but these are the ones I use most and feel comfortable recommending. Beware of sites that require you to download a software program to install the font. This is one way you end up with programs installed on your computer you never asked for and your computer starts misbehaving because of it.

On a final note, keep in mind that we respond to fonts physically, so keep that in mind if you are trying to evoke an emotion. Fonts that are cramped/squished will be hard to read and annoying. Fonts that are light and well-spaced, generally have the opposite effect. Show your presentation to others before you present for honest feedback.



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