… a type designer does not draw letters. A type designer designs words and words are structures that contain patterns of black and white shapes, form and counterform. It is a game that deals with space and rhythm. ” — Cyrus Highsmith

It’s a Jungle Out There

Detectives have been tossing hobbits and clowns into the slammer for years by utilizing the tried and true techniques of font identification. You may know better than to employ Papyrus or Comic Sans in your presentation, but have you ever looked at the sheer number of fonts at your disposal in Powerpoint or Keynote? It’s like arming a kitten with Wolverine’s claws: far more capacity than a non-mutant could ever hope to wield.

Welcome to the Future

Fortunately, the mutants who do wield fonts appropriately–designers–are tech-savvy types willing to blog on and on about font offenses in the marketplace. There is no shortage of font wisdom available in the socially networked 21st century, and therefore there is no shortage of blame for those who offend anyway.

Cut Text, Cut Serifs

The guidelines are simple: keep it simple, but make it stand out. Legibility, not style, is your primary motivating factor, so you can pretty much cut all scripted fonts. Don’t mix and match font after font–this isn’t grab bag, people–and cut the serifs (that means go with “sans” versions when available. Serifs make large quantities of text easier to read, but what is that large volume of text doing in your presentation? It’s not public speaking if it’s public reading: cut the text and the serifs.

Designers In-The-Know

When you’re ready to take it beyond pure function, do a quick web search for designers’ favorite fonts. Designers can often recognize fonts on the street–they’re very in-tuned to this sort of thing–and, again, they’re putting it out on the web free of charge. People tend to treat images and graphics like the sole design elements in a deck, but in reality the visualization of text–typography–is key.