Font Pairings and Hierarchies Support Your Presentation's Message

bottle of water sitting next to newspaper

Implementing clear hierarchies and good font pairings can bring professionalism to your presentation. There are certain attributes that make fonts pair well. We’ll help you figure it out.

Choose Fonts That Compliment

Some fonts have an innate personality. They may be casual or formal, relaxed or serious. Fonts can help facilitate your message because they have these traits. For example, round, bubbly typefaces exude happiness and celebration while clean, sans-serif type usually has a contemporary mood.

Much of the time, there’s a balance in font pairings. Some pairs are slightly different, and others are complete opposites, but they are still a great complement to one another. Strong personalities pair well with more neutral types.

two type specimens
Strong and Neutral Font Pairing

The larger font gets the attention. It’s complement is neutral and still very legible at a smaller size. This pairing shows off the header and keeps the bulk of the text simple. This is a safe, conservative pairing for any corporate presentation.

Establish Visual Hierarchy

To think about visual hierarchy, it’s a good idea to go back to the format that perfected it, the newspaper. Newspaper have always used visual hierarchies with their strategic use of

typefaces. They also use fonts in a way to visually separate stories. There are many different qualities that factor into visual hierarchy: size, weight, line-height (leading), and letter spacing (tracking and kearning). These all contributed to how the eye will read the text.

two type specimensi
Hierarchy Example

Start with what you want viewers to see first in your presentation. Headers should usually be at least twice as big as your body copy, but often even larger. If you can’t make them very large due to space restrictions, then make sure they are substantially emphasized using bold, heavy or black weights of your chosen font. A subhead can be substantially smaller than your header,but still needs to have more emphasis than your body copy, so make sure it’s either bold or at a size in between your header and body copy, or both.

Body text should be smaller than headers and subheads and usually use the regular weight of whatever font you are using. If your body copy is very small consider using semi-bold if your font has that weight.


With almost any design context matters. Presentations can be for a few or thousands, so the audience, topic and location should all impact your font choice. First, you have to ensure legibility and clarity no matter what size the screen. The size of the screen affects the font choice as well a its weight and spacing.

Note: Legibility trumps design, but be careful going too large with your type, especially body copy, as you will lose the professional look of good typography.

Mix Serifs and Sans Serifs

For a long time we’ve seen serif fonts used predominantly on the web to lend a modern, sophisticated feel to content, with serif fonts taking a backseat, often only used for callouts,

quotes and sidebars. However, styles are changing. Largely due to new computer screens with higher and higher resolutions, use of serif fonts has returned. Use them for headers, subheads, body copy or whatever you want. Pair them with a sans serif font for a great, professional-looking combo.

Here are some suggestions for serif and sans serif pairings:

six type specimens

This is a quick way to make a decision. You usually can’t go wrong with this type of pairing, especially in contrasting sizes.

Contrast Using Display Fonts

Display fonts are specifically designed to get attention. What works so well about pairing display fonts with normal fonts is the contrast they create because of their differences. Contrast is achievable in several ways. You have a lot to play with: style, weight, spacing, and size. Then it’s a process of seeing how fonts look together. Do their differences create a mood or do they clash? These differences actually assign specific roles for each font. One is dominant, the other is the details. Bringing them together elevates your entire design.

A word of caution: Most display fonts are not installed on the average user’s computer. So, if you are going to use them, read out post on custom vs. system fonts to make sure you can use them without problems.

Some contrasting font pairings, we recommend:

six type specimens

Establishing text hierarchies and pairing fonts will take your presentations to a more professional level. Both skills will help you communicate more clearly to your audience. They

can really impact how your audience responds to your message, so it’s not something to leave as an afterthought. If you’d like to learn more about hierarchies and font pairings from the presentation pros at KO/AD, contact us today. We create presentations that make every letter count.

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