Serif vs. Sans Serif Fonts in Presentations

In the professional world, the right presentation can make the difference between a successful business deal and a lost opportunity. Getting your point across to your audience is imperative! The tone, style, and even number of slides you use all figure into how your audience will digest your presentation. Have you thought about what font you will use? Will you use multiple fonts?  Let’s break down the age-old debate between serif vs. sans serif fonts in presentations.

The Difference

Although there seem to be hundreds of different fonts to discover when scrolling through options, they generally come down to just two categories: serif and sans serif. Serif fonts have a small line or extension attached to the end of a letter or symbol. Times New Roman is an example of a serif font.

A sans serif font does not have a small line. Examples include Helvetica and Arial fonts.

Which font should you use? Minor differences like the presence or absence of serifs  can really affect the aesthetics of your presentation.

Serif Fonts and Presentations

A serif font guides the eye during reading. For years, printed books and documents featured this type of font as it makes reading large blocks of small text easier. Many blog sites, such as Medium, use a serif font for body text, and the Kindle platform uses one as well.

But what about for a presentation? Well, it all depends on the “how” and “what” of the presentation itself. If you're including a printed handout or a slide deck with a lot of text, relying on a serif font would work well.

Serifs guide your eye as you navigate long blocks of text. Serifs break up the monotony of the endless stick-like lines that comprise sans serif text.

Another reason to use a serif font is that smaller text can improve retention, according to a study by Daniel Oppenheimer. Opting for a small font for bulk text can help your audience better remember your message.

Sans Serif Fonts and Presentations

Wider, simpler structures characterize sans serif fonts. They’re often featured in presentations with limited text as they are easier for the eye to follow. 

These fonts work well on screens when used in short sentences or bullet points. If you are designing slides and don't plan to include a screen full of text, using a sans serif font is probably best.

Serif and Sans Serif Fonts in a Presentation

Your best bet is to choose complementing serif and sans serif fonts and use them together. For example, you can employ a serif font for small footnotes, paragraphs, works cited, etc., and switch to a sans serif font for slide titles, subheadings, etc.

Using the two fonts together will add variety and purposeful style to your slide deck, and it will leverage the strengths of each font to work for your presentation instead of against it.

Please note that sans serif fonts almost always carry with them a more contemporary feel while serif fonts are often, but not always, a bit more serious and sometimes even stodgy. If your presentation calls for the use of one or the other, that’s fine! When sticking to one category, use a bold version and a thin version to break up the monotony.

Get Professional Advice

Developing a well-designed presentation can be more complex than you think. Aside from choosing the right font and a layout that strengthens your message, the colors, graphics, and other design elements are key to avoiding a disengaged audience with tired eyes.

Should you include serif fonts with artwork to increase retention or stick to an easy-to-read font? Freelance presentation design is the answer to your design queries. At Kristian Olson Art & Design, I’ll work with you to create a first-class presentation with salient information, great artwork, and the best fonts for the job.

If you need to make a positive impression to seal the deal, get in touch with me today. I’ll deliver an agency quality presentation without the hefty price tag.

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