Look ‘n’ feel matter – fonts

One of the “blessings” of the first WYSIWYG computers and laser printers that hit the market in the second half of the 1980’s, was the rich collection of bitmap and vector fonts that came with them.

In those days I was working as a free-lance trainer at Apple Computer, and as such I have been exposed to extravagant compositions of some of my Desktop Publishing students — with dozens of newly-discovered-exotic-typefaces literary dancing before my eyes.


Times have changed and people have got smarter, or haven’t they? When I look at certain Powerpoint (or Keynote or Prezi or …) presentations today, I still experience the same cacophony of fonts projected in front of me.

Here are a few basic rules to respect:

  • Slides must be readable, also by the people sitting in the back of the room. Use font sizes 28–36 for your titles, and don’t go below 20 points for the body text.
  • LARGE BLOCKS OF CAPITALIZED TEXT MAY BE HARD TO READ. You may capitalize some titles or the first characters of each line, but don’t over uppercase.
  • Sans-serif fonts are best for titles and bullets, while serif may be better for small sizes and large texts.
  • Don’t mix too many fonts into the same slide show, avoid too exotic typefaces, and never use script types. Also try not to deviate from the format prescribed by the presentation template.
  • Beware of fonts, such as the infamous comic sans, that may impact the credibility of your presentation.
  • Use boldface, italic and (contrast-rich) color instead of underline.
  • In case you want to be creative with fonts, then don’t overdo, rely on your good taste or (when you’re not sure of yourself) ask an expert.

Believe me, if you follow these simple tips, your will come over more professional as a presenter and your audience will go home without a font-ache.

Next week, I will talk about using color in your presentations.

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De gustibus et coloribus

De gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum” is a Latin expression that translates as “it’s no use debating taste and colors.” A good presentation is like a tasty dish and it requires the right skills —as well as a cook with ample personality and passion— to prepare. I  know that not everybody is a three-star chef, but this doesn’t mean that you have to serve mediocre junk food to your audience. Anyone can acquire, adopt and apply some basic kitchen techniques. Read my words. Taste and colors DO matter. And so do the look and feel of your presentations.

Check out the visual below. Doesn’t it look a bit tedious, ugly and tasteless?


  • Fonts: do you really want to mix that many typefaces on one single slide?
  • Colors: are you sure that people in the back of the room can read the pink emphasized words?
  • Bullets: will you be able to present the slide without reading out the entire text?
  • Background: this looks like a stock PowerPoint template. Boring, isn’t it?
  • Images: are these the best or most original pictures you could get?
  • Multimedia: not visible on the static image above, but imagine the clip art animated and the bullets flying in from left and right… (ugh!)

So, you’d better fetch your pots and pans, light your oven, and sharpen your kitchen knives! Because, in my next 6  posts, I am going to dig into the art of creating compelling visuals and give you some easy-to-follow do’s and don’ts for making your slides look more professional and yummy


For an entertaining hands-on on how not to use PowerPoint, watch this video of stand-up comedian Don McMillan:

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