One of the most important, most vexing, and most abused areas of PowerPoint design has to do with fonts. Whoever invented fonts anyway? Wouldn’t it be so much simpler if there were just one font choice? Sure it would, but it would also make the world an incredible boring place. Creative fonts are good, but they need to be used with care. What is needed are a few rules, guidelines, or suggestions. As a professional PowerPoint designer. Josh has been working with fonts for years. He’s eminently qualified to answer your questions about fonts. So, let’s get some things figured out about best practices for fonts in church media.
How do you decide what font to use with a particular design, style, season, mood, topic? Is it just a matter of whatever tickles your fancy, or are there some helpful guidelines that you can provide?
Every designer has their favorite fonts. I have around a dozen serif fonts, six sans-serif fonts, and a handful of scripts on my stand-by list. If I only had access to these fonts, I could produce compelling design layouts in a wide range of styles. I deviate from these favorites often, but it is great to have a quiver-full of reliable choices when delving into a new design.
(For the record, my list is as follows:
- Helvetica Neue
- Century Gothic
- Avant Garde
Simple fonts or ornate fonts? Which do I use? I think visual interest is important, even with fonts, but so is readability.
Fonts with even the simplest of appearances are incredibly complex. Think about it: each font contains scores of characters, all carefully designed and masterfully constructed. We may think of Arial or Times as humdrum, but there is a reason they are loaded onto nearly every computer in the USA (and in many countries around the world): they are perfectly crafted font faces that combine subtle elegance and superior readability.
I generally favor simpler font faces to ornate choices because readability is always paramount. That said, there are times when an ornate font fits the bill. The key is making active choices. Ornate fonts can be a default choice and a lazy substitute for actual design work. Instead, choose your fonts deliberately, noting the aesthetic and emotional benefit to the work you are creating.
How many different kinds of fonts can I use in a single piece of media, such as a bulletin or a PowerPoint?
The keys to font choice are 1) coherence and 2) consistency. Within a piece (or series of pieces) titles should be set in one font face. The same is true for paragraphs (or body copy). Subheads should be consistent with each other, captions should be consistent with each other, italics should be consistent with each other…
As a general rule, two complimentary font families work well in a single piece, three can work if applied carefully, and four will almost always appear scattered and incoherent.
Are there different types of font files?
There are many different formats of font files. Sparing the dissertation, there are three basic formats that appear most often: PostScript (ts) TrueType (ttf), and OpenType (otf).
- PostScript fonts were (and in some ways still are) the industry standard for producing camera-ready artwork for professional printing. The problem with PostScript font is they are not compatible with all computers. If you design on a PC and a Mac-based designer sends you a font file that will not load, there is a good chance that font was delivered in PostScript format.
- Apple developed TrueType fonts to compete with are compatible with nearly all machines. Certain professional presses once had difficulty producing printed works with TrueType fonts, since their machinery was programmed to understand the PostScript language. Since, this problem has all but disappeared. Many free fonts for consumer use come in this format because they are widely compatible. Generally, TrueType fonts are stable files, though TrueType bootlegs of famous fonts abound. These imitations often lack the kerning tables and glyph selection found in the original versions of the fonts.
- OpenType is a relatively new font format that is compatible with Mac and PC, widely accepted by professional presses, and often includes great features like kerning tables, discretionary glyphs, and more. If given the choice, I always prefer to purchase fonts in the OpenType format because the files are the most versatile.
If you could give your top two or three cardinal rules about fonts, what would they be?
- Never, ever, ever use Papyrus or Comic Sans in your designs (unless you want your designs to appear amateur).
- Kerning (the space between the letters) is as important as the letters themselves. Always look at the negative space between your letters, especially in instances of large type, and adjust accordingly. Always trust your eye; never trust a default kerning table.
- Ornate fonts are for headers and large type areas only. Choose simple serif or sans-serif fonts for body copy. Always value readability.
Are there any PowerPoint-specific font tips that you could give us?
White space is far more important in a printed work than it is on-screen. When designing for screen, set your type larger than your instincts tell you. It is always good to test your typesetting by projecting it onto the big screen. This will reveal much about your design that your desktop monitor never could.
Josh Feit is an experienced graphic designer who devotes the majority of his time and attention to church graphic design. Josh’s PowerPoint expertise is available through Sharefaith. You can view more Sermon PowerPoints here, and sign up for a membership with Sharefaith.