Presentations 101: Custom Font Choices

Note: This article is about choosing custom fonts for your presentation. However, depending on your situation, you many need to stick with system fonts or your company’s approved brand fonts. Learn more here.

With a seemingly infinite variety of fonts to choose from these days, it can feel overwhelming to decide which ones to use in any given situation. You never want to walk away from your presentation wondering if the type was legible or if it worked well with the design. Choosing fonts isn’t a guessing game, at least not in the world of professional presentations. We’ll start with some introductory information then get into how to best choose fonts for presentations.

Why Fonts Matter: Mood and Readability

When your mind is intensely focused on the content of your presentation, font choice may seem like a small part of the design. However, presentations usually include a significant amount of text, so fonts play a big role. Your font choices are an opportunity to convey mood and provide readability.

Mood: Different fonts carry different moods. Depending on the subject matter of your presentation, the fonts should fit the intended mood. Font choice should be deliberate, not random because it has an impact on the complete design. Making the wrong font choice can throw off your message.

Readability: Most importantly the fonts you use should be readable to your audience. This is typically a function of the size of the room and the size of the screen. However, some fonts are more readable than others.

Here are some tips to help you with mood and readability.

Four Main Font Categories

There are almost limitless fonts to choose from—so many that this blog post could go on for days. Instead of delving into that ocean of choices, let’s take a look at the four main type families that cover the majority of all the fonts you will encounter.

Serif:

  • Known for small lines attached at the ends of their letters like little feet
  • Mood: serious, traditional, somber, formal
  • Readability: good at medium to large sizes, poor at smaller sizes unless bolded
  • Serif fonts you probably already have: Times, Georgia, Caslon, Garamond

Sans-Serif:

  • Opposite of serif: no small lines or feet
  • Mood: airy, light, clean, corporate
  • Readability: excellent at all sizes except when using thin / light weights for small text
  • Sans-serif fonts you probably already have: Helvetica, Verdana, Arial, Franklin Gothic, Century Gothic

Script:

  • Cursive or handwritten styles often with connecting letters
  • Mood: ranges from elegant to fun and casual
  • Readability: varies greatly, avoid using for long blocks of body copy
  • Script fonts you probably already have: Apple Chancery, Brush Script, Mistral

Display:

  • Designed for attention and accents
  • Mood: bold, creative, powerful, fun
  • Readability: varies, but usually good at large size
  • Display fonts you probably already have: Copperplate, Impact

So Which Fonts Should You Choose

A basic rule is that serif and sans-serif fonts should be used for most titles, headers, subheads and body text. Display and script fonts should be used as highlights and/or to get attention. In a business presentation you should usually stay clear of using display or script fonts for body text. (And NEVER use all-caps with a cursive script font).

At KO/AD we tend towards using good quality sans-serif fonts for everything but quotes and small-print. They lend a feeling of contemporary professionalism and clarity to our slides. Occasionally we will use serif fonts for headers and body copy if the presentations need to feel more formal or serious. (Think government, higher education, legal and financial). However, keep in mind the mood of your presentation trumps everything.

Some of Our Favorite FREE Fonts:

Sans-Serif: Montserrat, Open Sans, Roboto, Source Sans Pro
download all

Serif: Lora, Arvo, PT Serif, Crimson Text, Vollkorn
download all

Script: Just Another Hand, Amatic SC, Yesteryear
download all

Display: Abril Fatface, Monoton, Fugaz One, Shrikhand, Bungee Inline
download all

As you can see, font choice in presentations has many facets. It’s not as easy as randomly picking a font that looks “pretty.” Rather it’s a critical part of the presentation. Each letter spells out your message so the way it looks is almost as important.

If you’re not sure which font to use in your presentation or where to start, make it easy on yourself. Outsource your presentation design to a team that understands the power of fonts. KO/AD has been choosing fonts for presentations for nearly 20 years with purpose. You can take a look at some of our font choices by browsing our work.

More Good Stuff:

View All >>
Say Hello!

Ask questions. Get a quote. You know what to do.

Get a Free Half-Hour Consultation

Sign up for my newsletter and get a free half-hour phone consultation.

Get a free consultation!