5 Typography Tips for Every Presenter

download (2)Today, everyone is a typographer. If you have access to a keyboard and a basic software program, you have control over typography. For instance, if you construct email, write for a blog or build presentations, you have a type of control (pun intended) over your words and letters that your great grandfathers would envy. Be thankful. Typography used to only be an art form available to the ink-stained laborers of the early 19th century.

A lot has changed since the days of Gutenberg, but the sad reality is that even though today’s presenter has control over type, most don’t quite understand — much less utilize — it as an art form. It is one, and its power can be immense.

Moving forward, I want you to apply significance to typography just as you do with color and photo selection. Here are 5 basic tips to get you thinking within the right context:

1. Match Your Brand

For starters, if you have a brand style guide, stick to it. There are most likely 1-2 fonts that you must adhere to to keep brand consistency. If so, follow the rules. If not, take advantage of the opportunity to seek out a new font that is still visually engaging and in a similar font family.

2. Pick Two Fonts

I always recommend aiming for only two font styles. Why? One font style is too boring. Three font styles are too much. Consider two font styles as the Goldilocks approach. It’s just right. If you insist on using multiple fonts, three should be the absolute cap.

3. Go Big

A few years ago, Masayoshi Takahashi changed the presentation industry by rolling out a big text approach to presenting. Think 500 point size. Large font is all he utilized on his slides. It was go big or go home, and it’s a simple and easy design tactic that anyone can implement.

4. Be Bold

Certain points are always going to be more relevant than other items. For instance, let’s look at the phrase “Change the world.” Depending on your perspective, you may want to really emphasize the idea of “Change.” Utilizing the bold feature to create contrast with your message then becomes essential: “Change the world.” Even with something so simple like the phrase above in this blog post, adding contrast adds plenty of visual value.

5. Keep it Simple

At the end of the day, your font choices need to be easy to read. It’s that simple. If you can’t decipher a letter, then you can’t expect your audience to decipher it, much less comprehend your message, as well. Choose wisely.

Remember, typography is an art. You aren’t going to become a typography expert overnight but you can definitely start building some more engaging slides by understanding the rules.

Read More: Top Design Resources for Non-Designers

Scott Schwertly is the author of How to Be a Presentation God and CEO ofEthos3, a Nashville, TN-based presentation boutique providing professional presentation design and training for national and international clients, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to branded individuals like Guy Kawasaki.

 

 

 

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  • Down10

    I like the “billboard rule”: Never have more than seven words of text on the screen. (Failing this, never have more than five words of text on a single line.) If people are busy reading, they’re not paying attention to the speaker! I noticed that Apple does this with its keynote presentations.

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  • Christy

    Just a thought. If you’re building a presentation with non-standard fonts that will be displayed on a computer other than your own, be aware that the host computer may not have the correct fonts installed and will replace them with something else. In situations like this, you should consider using standard fonts that are close to your brand font, or see if whoever is coordinating the presentation can install your brand fonts on their computer in advance. I speak from experience, having spent hours on a slick deck that ended up looking like MS-DOS when my brand fonts were replaced with a different font.

  • byron

    Thanks for the GREAT tips Scott. Do you have any recommendations for fonts that the cool kids/presenters should be using? btw – I just ordered your book How to Be a Presentation God from B&N. It looks good.

    Also – for Christy – You can go into the MS Options – Save – and check the embed fonts in the file box and that should work to run the ppt with the correct fonts and formatting. Another option is to go into Save and Send in the File Menu (Backstage view) and package presentation for CD and then your fonts should (should?!!?) travel with your presentation. Good luck!

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  • Fred Durst

    Just use these ones for easy overall readability

    CALIBRI
    HELVETICA
    TAHOMA
    ARIAL

    I trust these typefaces with my life.

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  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAI9Ut85rGQ Agriya

    Hi,
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  • tao

    These are good tips that everyone should know. But your assertion that today everyone is a typographer is just silly. It is closer to the truth to say that today, most people misuse type. Your tips will help presenters not to do that.

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  • http://remotepossibilities.wordpress.com/ Craig Hadden

    These are great ideas, especially the 2nd one, where you overlap the text with parts of the photo. I wanna try it cause it looks great!

    In fact you can still get the same results even if you don’t have Photoshop.

    For instance, to make something like the “old news” shot, duplicate the photo, use Remove Background on the upper copy to get rid of everything above the ridge that “old” will sit on, then use Align Left and Align Top to line up the 2 photos. Lastly, drag the big “OLD” text to the right place on the slide and use Bring To Front to put the foreground photo on top of it. Voila!

    Or for perspective text (like the “principles” shot), you can use the 3D Rotation tab in the Format Shape dialog box, like I did for mild perspective on the word “Pause” in this photo:
    http://bitly.com/M69YfT

    Thanks for the inspiration Scott!