The #1 Best Advice for Choosing PowerPoint Fonts

In my workshops, I’m often asked which is the best font to use on PowerPoint slides. The short answer is to choose a font the way you would a business outfit: use a font that’s readable, reflects your personality and makes you feel good.

The long answer is that different fonts have different personalities, which are right in different situations. In 2004, researchers at Washington State University studied 210 fonts to find out people felt toward them. And they came up with 6 categories of fonts which can generally be sorted based on whether the font was more informal or more forceful and what emotional impact it had, from no impact to unsettling. (Note, I sorted their 6 categories into this framework; this is not their official sorting or naming.)

 

So which font should you choose? That’s like asking which outfit you should wear. If you’re having an important business meeting, wear the brown suit. If you’re speaking at the TED Conference, wear jeans and a turtleneck. Going out on a date? Wear that flirty little black dress. Your font choice should be a conscious decision based on the image you want to project.

The ONE piece of advice I feel strongly about is to not use the default Calibri font. It makes your PowerPoint slide LOOK like a PowerPoint slide and everyone else’s slides. Presentation designer Jan Schultink gives this remarkable piece of advice: to ensure great design, don’t let your PowerPoint slides look like PowerPoint slides. Calibri screams PowerPoint!

Take a look at these two slides, using Calibri (left) and Meiryo (right). Can you feel the difference in energy?

To manage the default fonts in PPT 2010, got to Design > Fonts and select Create New Theme Fonts. Then choose new fonts for titles and body text and name your new custom font setting. Unfortunately, there’s no way to choose this as the default for all your future presentations. So, as you create presentations, you’ll first have to navigate to the Design > Fonts menu and select your new font styles from the menu.

I’ll be writing more about font choice, and sharing what the research has to say, in future blog posts. Sign up to receive blog posts in your inbox.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.