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The Dangerous Business of Font Selection

Posted on June 21, 2017

The Dangerous Business of Font Selection

That’s two words I never imagined together… dangerous and font. What if I told you that after all the time you put into creating your slide deck, you could lose your audience in the first few minutes?


Our brains are busy at work deciding how we feel about something we see, and font is one of the things it interprets even if we aren’t aware of that on a conscious level!



Danger #1: Going with a default/overused font (such as Calibri). This is a signal to our brain that we don’t need to pay attention.

I recently did a presentation for a group of speakers and showed them an opening slide with a bulleted list in Calibri font. Instantly, they all groaned and agreed that it was boring and put them to sleep. They were right! Our brain is looking for ways to conserve energy and will “go to sleep” if it thinks it’s already seen something.

Danger #2: Picking a font that is too difficult to read. Our brains tune out when the effort is not worth the payoff.The Dangerous Business of Font Selection


One of my employees Dice (pictured on the right) recently visited Saudi Arabia. He can somewhat read Arabic but only when it’s in a clear Serif or San Serif typeface. He noticed that the only Arabic he could read was the one usually on signs (airport, traffic, hotels). However, the Arabic used in shopping malls, on food packaging and posters was much more difficult (if not impossible) for him to read due to its decorative/creative nature.


The Dangerous Business of Font SelectionDanger #3:  Picking a font that is not in harmony with our message.  A confused mind always says “no”.

Imagine my surprise when I went to a presentation by a leading clinician on his breakthrough research, and he was using Comic Sans for his font! How were we supposed to take his message seriously when he was displaying this child-like playful font?


Bottom line? The type of font you use in your slides should be determined by the body of your work: the tone, the message and how you want your audience to perceive you. It’s all aligned.


Font might seem like a small part of presentation design, but used carelessly, it can disrupt the effectiveness of your presentation.