Why Study Typography?
Typography is the study of arranging text to make it legible, readable, and visually appealing. As a presenter, type is one of the most important tools in your design arsenal.
When you start from a blank slide, you quickly realize that you have a virtually unlimited selection of fonts from which to choose. And that decision can have a strong impact on how easy it is for your audience to read your text.
Additionally, your font choice can shape how your audience perceives you and your content. If you haven't read about Errol Morris's 2012 experiment in the New York Times, it's worth a read. He posted a quiz on the Times' website ("Are you an optimist or a pessimist?") that asked readers to state whether they agreed or disagreed with an excerpt from a book. What the 45,000 people who took the quiz didn't know was that the excerpt was being randomly set in one of six fonts and that the real question being studied was whether font selection had an impact on the believably of a passage.
So what were the findings? Well it turned out that font selection did have a statistically significant impact on whether readers agreed with the author of the excerpt and the font Baskerville was found to be the most believable of the six. This chart shows the weighted agreement scores attributed to the various typefaces:
So it's probably not a big surprise that setting your slides in a handwritten font vs. a type font could change their opinion of it (or whether they believe you). But that's not the only typographic choice you need to make.
Next you have to decide the style, size, weight, placement, padding, line spacing, alignment, and how to combine it with other fonts or visual elements in your slide to ensure they are consistent.
That's a lot, but it's based on some basic and easy-to-grasp principles. Learning about the different styles and components of type and how to best use them will not only help you comfortably make the above decisions, but it will make you a better designer and provide a level of polish that will separate your presentations from others'.
If you’re designing slides, you want for your audience to be able to read and engage with them easily. So it logically follows that you need some typographic tips in your toolbox. Take a little time to level up your type vocabulary and skillset; you’ll never look at another presentation (or commercial, poster, email or sign) the same way again.
I recommend starting your education on type by focusing on these three areas:
- Understanding type. To start your type journey, read this Canva Design School article on typographic terms you should know as well as this article on fundamental Text Rules.
- Pairing fonts. There are basically an unlimited number of fonts out there, so head over to the Type page of the Resource directory to learn all about how to pair your fonts. And check out today’s new resource, typeconnection.com for a fun online “font dating game” where you can test your skills at font pairing and learn a good deal in the process.
- Kerning type. Kerning is adjusting the space between letters in your text to make it easier to read. Start with this great introductory article and then head over to type.method.ac for an interactive introduction to kerning where you can get immediate feedback on your kerning skills. Even if you don't actively adjust kerning in your presentations, you will, at the very least, learn to identify bad kerning and can avoid it by choosing better-designed fonts.
For more great articles on typography, check out the Typography How-To tutorials at tutsplus.com.