Sunday, May 20, 2012

A word on visuals: Typography

Source Wikipedia under CC license by Brandenands

I have always been hesitant to write about typography because I have no formal education on it. However I can't keep quiet after what I have read and seen last week. Last week I found Emiland De Cubber.  He describes himself as a "full-time presentation lover and a part-time presentation designer." Certainly, Emiland's visual stacks stand out, but I disagree with his advise on typography and how he uses it. Now, I know I'm nobody in the Slideshare /presentation world, neither do I want or pretend to be.  I also know that in graphic design there is an entire world of styles. But I also know that design should be One and Universal, and that respecting the audience also means offering them type they can easily read.  So here is can I think about typography. 

One single typeface is enough for one presentation stack

I'm with Seth Godin in that a slide shouldn't have more than 6 (six) words, so creating emphasis and hierarchy don't require a different typeface. Instead think of varying the type's size, color, weight or style to achieve.

OK,  two are also fine. But never, ever use more than two.

It is absolutely fine to use a second one— as long as you know what you are doing. In this blog I sometime use Helvetica for the post's abstract. I got the idea from the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. If you are going to combine two typefaces, here is some advice I read from Before&After Magazine and Robin William's book The Non-Designer's Design Book
  • Slab serifs (…) can be used as heads when combined with any simple sans serif (…). This reverses the usual habit of using of using serifs for body and sans serifs for heads, and gives a casual, airy look. 
  • Try to match x-height of fonts that appear side by side —even if you must use a different point size. Or you can exaggerate their differences by making one font at least two point sizes bigger—or a lot bolder— than the other.
  • A Contrast of size does not always mean you  must make the type large—it just means there should be a contrast.
  • Not only does a contrast of weight make a page more attractive to your eyes, it is one if the most effective ways of organizing information.
If Slab serifs and x-height don't ring a bell, then you should stick to use one typeface. If you want to know what they mean get this book:
It will teach you that and much more. 

Cheap types will yield cheap results

In the new computer age the proliferation of typefaces and type manipulations represents a new level of visual pollution threatening our culture.
—Massimo Vignelli

Resist the temptation of downloading and using free fonts. If you use a Mac you have all the typefaces you need to make great visuals. Even if you don't have access to Garamond, Bodoni, Futura or Helvetica don't use sites like dafont or squirrel font.

Fair enough, what if you need more typefaces? I suggest you either use Google's Roboto or the Ubuntu font family
Source Wikipedia under CC license by Google and Cal3briley
These are not in heaven with Futura, but neither are they in the hell of cheap fonts. I like to think of them as been in the purgatory of typefaces. 

Having said all of this, take a look at Emiland's 7 tips to create visual Presentations. There is valuable information in it.

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