Okay… full disclosure: I am a huge font snob! Throughout my time in the history classroom, I not only chose fonts for my presentations and handouts like a sommelier might approach picking a fine wine with dinner, I often researched what typeface might be appropriate for the time period and reasons we were studying!
However, I have needed to evolve my practice a bit over the past ten years. Yes, too much text on a PowerPoint slide is distracting and counterproductive. Yes, you need to be very careful when mixing and maxing fonts. However, if you are creating and collaborating in a modern cloud computing environment, you need to be cautious that using too many creative font choices make it difficult to move your presentation in and out of the cloud with the create tool sets like Office 365 online and Google Slides.
The simple answer is just to defer to generic fonts, either the generic PowerPoint fonts like Calibri or one of the “universal fonts” that word across all platforms, like discussed here.
Let me demonstrate why. Click on the graphics below to see a full version!
and one with some beautiful, hand-crafted fonts:
I uploaded this presentation to both Office 365 and Google Drive and Slides. The result was a presentation with broken fonts. In Office 365, the generic slide was great:
But, the unique font slide was broken:
This was also true on Google Drive. Default fonts:
And the custom display fonts:
Deferring to the default and commonly used fonts allows me to move the presentation in and out of cloud-based presentation software, and share my presentation with others.
Now, of course there are times where I really want more complex typography or need to utilize different fonts to make a powerful or attractive design. For example, I do often make personal presentations for work or professional development that have a lot of thoughtful design that I will make to several groups over time. In those cases, I stick with my desktop-based software like PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote. But, if I am in one of these scenarios:
- …I am collaborating with several people on a presentation utilizing Google Sheets or Office 365
- …I am starting on Office 365 or Google Sheets and plan to export it to PowerPoint or Keynote on the desktop later
- …I am using Office 365 or Google Drive to share the presentation online
- …I am designing a presentation that will be used by someone later
…then it really makes sense to keep it simple!
This is also excellent advice for your students. Students LOVE using fonts and often create over-design and distracting slides to accompany their presentation. Utilizing this advice not only allows them to move their presentation around to these great cloud platforms, but, might also encourage them to back off the overfonting.