Better FONTS! (pt 1)

Most of us don’t put much thought into the fonts we use in our presentations. We just pick a template and accept the fonts that come along with the template. This is a good strategy if your goal is to create a presentation that looks common and typical. One way to spice things up is to create your own collection of fonts that compliment the subject and tone of your presentation. I have a lot of cool tips and resources to share with you on this topic, so let’s dive right in!

Learning about fonts:
Typography is an art form, and there is much to learn. Developing a good understanding of the basics will help you make better choices when selecting and formatting type in your presentations.

  • Helvetica (the movie) – This is an award winning movie about typography and design, centering around the most popular font of all. Designers love this flick. Add it to your Netflix cue and you won’t be disappointed. Who knew fonts could be so controversial?!
  • Choosing the right font – This is a useful guide about typography on the web. These same concepts apply to presentation design.
  • Type Is Sexy – Don’t let the creative metaphor fool you, this site offers some very useful, highly-visual tutorials on understanding the art and techniques involved in good typography.
  • What is TrueType? – If you’re curious about the different font standards/file types, check out these pages from Yahoo Answers and Adobe. Essentially, there are three main standards that include OpenType, TrueType and PostScript. Most of the fonts that you download will be TrueType (.ttf) files, although OpenType is a newer standard and gradually gaining support. You may also encounter “.svg” fonts, which are designed for display on an iPad or iPhone.
  • What Font is that? – Ok this is cool. With the What Font Tool, you can hover over any text on a webpage and immediately learn what font family it is. The tool is available as a browser extension for Chrome and Safari, or as a Bookmark tool for IE and Firefox.
  • Typography Insight (iPad app) – This is a highly-rated iPad app for $2 that helps you learn all about typefaces.
  • Font terminology
    • Font name / family = the specific font being used, ex: Arial, Courier.
    • Font size = a floating-point number specifying font size in points, ex: 12 point.
    • Font face/typeface – the style of the font, ex: normal, bold, italic.
    • Tracking – space between all letters (horizontal space).
    • Leading – space between lines of text (vertical space).
    • Kerning – space between specific letter forms. Ex: capital A’s and V’s are normally designed to have tighter kerning to appear more visually pleasing.

Reviewing the fonts you already have installed:
Downloading new fonts is fun, but it can be time consuming. Consider taking a closer look at the fonts you already have access to, before you venture into the wild west of free Internet fonts.

  • PowerPoint 2010+ (PC and Mac) – The Live Preview feature makes selecting fonts really easy. Select a text box, and then click the font selection box from the Home ribbon. As you hover your mouse over the fonts in the list, the text box on your slide will change, showing you a formatted preview of each option.
  • Fonts Panel (PC) – To view all of your installed fonts outside of PowerPoint, open the Windows Control Panel, choose Appearance and Personalization, and then Fonts. Click the view options button in this window, and change it to “Extra Large Icons” for better viewing.
  • Keynote (Mac) – You can mimic PowerPoint’s Live Preview feature with the Fonts window. First, select some text, and then click the “A Fonts” button in the upper-right corner of the main tool bar. As you select from this new Fonts window, your change will be immediately reflected on your slide.
  • Font Book (Mac) – To view all of the fonts on your Mac, open the Font Book, which is found in your Applications folder. The Mac Font Book gives a really nice, large preview of each font as you browse the list.

In part 2 of this Better FONTS! post, we’ll talk about what you really came here for – finding and using FREE FONTS – so stay tuned!

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