Using typefaces for presentations
January 7, 2016
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WORDS ALEXANDRA PAREDES

 

By now, you’re probably well-acquainted with certain personalities: Times New Roman, forever stiff and formal; Arial, courteous and open; and maybe even Garamond, genteel and elegant. You’ve probably used them on countless papers, and they’ve served you well — until you applied them on PowerPoint, where you realize that your presentation looks a lot like everyone else’s.

Reports are inescapable. Whether on the advances in eicosanoid biology, or case studies to be presented to potential clients, reports demand typological flair that will make them memorable. Here are the basics:

Search for fonts online
If you’ve never thought twice about using typefaces beyond those that come with your computer — the fonts easily accessible on MS Word or PowerPoint — then this is your chance. Make use of what the internet has to offer. There are thousands of downloadable fonts on Web sites like DaFont, FontSquirrel, and Google Fonts. Many of them are free for personal use.

What to consider
Each typeface has a distinct personality — much like people. Some are flamboyant while others are austere. Some screech in excitement while others sit and explain. With a bit of practice, you can harness their voices for a lively and coherent presentation.

1. Is it readable?
Just because a typeface is free doesn’t mean it’s of good quality. Some novelty typefaces may appear interesting but when applied to your text will render it utterly unintelligible. Download the font and test it — you can always delete it later. If you can’t make out the letterforms, don’t use it.

Font size is another factor in deciding readability. As much as possible, the smallest text should be visually equivalent to Calibri size 27. Ideally, you won’t need to overload your slides with information because you’ll be speaking alongside your presentation.

CAN YOU READ what it says? If not, choose a different typeface. (Font: Gas Mask Warriors)
CAN YOU READ what it says? If not, choose a different typeface. (Font: Gas Mask Warriors)

2. Is it appropriate?
The typeface should suit the subject matter. Therefore, Comic Sans is probably not the best choice for an essay on Rizal’s exile in Dapitan. Likewise, a horror-themed typeface for a report on animal taxonomy will detract from the meaning you want to convey.

UNLESS your report falls on Halloween and your professor has a sense of humor. (Font: Double Feature)
UNLESS your report falls on Halloween and your professor has a sense of humor. (Font: Double Feature)

 

3. Is it a heading typeface or a body typeface?
Divide your typefaces into two categories: headings and body text. Headings are for the titles; body text is for the content.

Use decorative type sparingly as too much of it will strain and distract your audience. Fancy letters work best in titles and headers, where they are short, readable, and don’t overstay their welcome.

For body text, be sure to choose a more neutral typeface, perhaps a sans serif like Open Sans. (Note: some of the most readable typefaces can be found on Google Fonts).

WHICH of these can be classified as headings, and which ones as body text?
WHICH of these can be classified as headings, and which ones as body text?

 

4. Do the typefaces go together?
Now that you have several typefaces to choose from, you can experiment with combinations.

It’s generally good to have contrast between typefaces; that is, you can easily tell them apart. If you find that you’re using two typefaces that look alike, consider using only one font and just varying the styles between regular, bold, and italic. Headings can be bold, subheadings can be italicized and body text can simply be regular.

For ideas on exciting typeface combinations, try the type-pairing game Type Connection (http://typeconnection.com) or the “Tinder for font pairing” Web site Font Flame (http://fontflame.com).

A FRIENDLY combination (Fonts: Amaranth and Open Sans)
A FRIENDLY combination (Fonts: Amaranth and Open Sans)

 

Save as PDF

We are often called to present a slideshow on someone else’s computer. Remember that the fonts you chose with care are not installed on this machine! This can turn your presentation into a visual mess.

Prevent the loss of your hard work by saving a copy of your presentation as a PDF. It won’t have any animation effects, but your superior design choices will be preserved.

Final note

A good typeface makes an impact whether it’s outrageous or understated, and a good combination exudes confidence whether it’s dramatic or classic. Keep in mind what James Felici, veteran journalist and author of The Complete Manual of Typography, once wrote: “Typography is the use of type to advocate, communicate, celebrate, educate, elaborate, illuminate, and disseminate. Along the way, the words and pages become art.” Reports may run for a few minutes, but the right typeface makes their message last.

Alexandra-Paredes

 

Alexandra Paredes is a freelance graphic designer. She is also a stampmaker at Rubber Ducky Stamp Co. You can find her online at http://alexandra-paredes.com and at @rubberduckystampco on Instagram.

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