by Greg Hanson
PowerPoint novices and even a few veterans struggle when it comes to the effective use of fonts in presentations. Following some basic guidelines can greatly improve your PowerPoint design and make you a better communicator. Here are eight font-related rules that can help you design a more potent PowerPoint presentation.
1. Use a font colors that clearly with the background.
If the font colors or tones are too similar, the text will become illegible. A light font color against a dark background (or vice versa) typically works best. If you have a particular background image that you wish to use and are having difficulty finding a contrasting color for the font, the strategic use of bolding, shadows, and semitransparent boxes may provide the solution to your problem. To judge its effectiveness, test it in the very room and with the very equipment that will be used for the presentation.
2. Protect white space.
Resist the urge to cram too much onto one slide. Otherwise, your message may be lost in the cacophony. In most cases, simple is better. White space (territory on the slide not occupied by text or graphics) is a valuable design element that can help you communicate with more clarity.
3. Keep the font size reasonable.
The text on each slide should be easily readable from the back of the room. While the specifics will vary by location and are impacted by external factors such as room configuration, lighting, and screen size, a 44-point font with no more than 8-10 lines of text per screen is a good rule of thumb. If you are using a longer quotation or list of statistics, spread it across two or more slides.
4. Avoid font overload.
A common temptation encountered by the uninitiated is to use an abundance of fonts throughout the presentation. However, this leads to a poor design and destroys the coherence of your presentation. Restrain yourself to using 2-3 different fonts in total. Furthermore, steer clear of scripts (e.g. Brush Script) and hyperstylized fonts (e.g. Old English) that are difficult to decipher. As attractive as they may be, they are useless if the audience cannot easily read the text.
5. Design your slides with the destination computer in mind.
If your presentation has to be transferred to another computer, limit your selection of fonts to those that are standard to virtually every system. Otherwise, the relevant fonts will have to be found, purchased (if necessary), and loaded onto the destination computer. Alternatively, the user of that computer will have to select new fonts from those present and essentially redesign the presentation.
6. Retire overused fonts.
As much as they are used, standard fonts such as Times New Roman and Arial will probably always have a place in PowerPoint design. More stylistic fonts such as Papyrus and Comic Sans, on the other hand, have perhaps outlived their usefulness. Itęs not that those fonts are bad; itęs just that people have grown tired of them. Retire these fonts and put the audience out of its misery.
7. DO NOT USE ALL CAPS.
Not only does using all caps make it seem like you are shouting, but it renders blocks of text difficult to read, too. Of course, all caps are appropriate for many acronyms. If you must, all caps may also be used for short titles. If you are using more than just a few words, though, stick to mixed case and the standard rules for capitalization and sentence structure.
8. Use animations in moderation.
No one wants to see every letter of every word come spinning in from a different corner of the screen. While it may be entertaining (at least, for the first few seconds), the overuse of animations ultimately distracts the audience from your intended message. When animations are called for, a simple fade, dissolve, or appear is usually the most effective.
Granted, there are exceptions to every rule. In the absence of a good reason, though, you should hold unwaveringly to these guidelines. If you do, the design quality of your PowerPoint presentations will improve dramatically and your audience will thank you for it.
© 2012 Greg Hanson / PowerPointPastors.com