Design Tips for the Classroom Part 4

The final part of the Design Tips for Presentations quadrilogy (I like the way it sounds instead of tetralogy) has arrived!  In part III, I shared about the use of color in presentations and how it affects the learner.  Color has a way of setting moods and causes viewers to react actively or passively.  Understanding color theory can help make presentations/lessons be more effective and less distracting to the learner.  In this blog, I will share with you how fonts work in creating fluid and efficient presentations.

Copy of Design Tips for the Classroom

Fonts v Typeface

Before beginning here is an explanation between the terms font and typeface.  In ye olden times, printed documents were done by painstakingly setting blocks of metal letters in frames.  Then these letters were then rolled with ink and pressed onto paper.  It took thousands of these metal letters to create sets of words.  The process This was known as typesetting.  Typeface basically meant that the design of the type used in the setting.  Font referred to the typeface size and weight.  For example,  italicized Times New Roman at 24 points would be considered a different font than italicized Times New Roman at 28 points.  With the rise of desktop publishing, the distinctions between the two have slowly disappeared.  Open up MS Word or Pages and you will be asked to choose a font.  Technically you are choosing a specific typeface weight and size.  Most people now refer to fonts and typeface interchangeably.  I’ll take the liberty of using both terms for the rest of this blog.


Here’s a short video about the history of typography.

The visual form of western written and printed language derived around 100 AD which led the way to different processes for creating typefaces.  As stated in the video, Gutenberg is credited with developing the first form of movable type for printing presses in 1440.  For the next 400 years, different variations of fonts were created.  The progression of font development was specialized for print.  For many years most educational books, media, and marketing used typefaces used fonts that were meant for print.  As digital forms of communication came to fruition, we began seeing more and more types of fonts designed and created with intent to use in presentations, websites, and now mobile devices.  With so many typefaces available, what’s the best option?  Let’s explore these options.

Serif v Sans Serif

So what’s the big deal with serif and sans serif?  Serif fonts were very popular earlier types of typography.  Serifs included small lines or tails at the edges of letters and symbols.  The following fonts are examples of serif fonts.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 9.21.43 AM

Serif fonts are easier to read in printed works.  Think textbooks, newsletters, and journals.  These fonts make letters easier for our brains to decipher quickly.  In print, serif letters cause us understand each letter’s distinctive shape.

Sans-serif typeface does not have the small distinct tails or lines at the end of the strokes, hence the name sans-serif.  Sans serif fonts are better for digital formats such as presentations, ebooks, and websites (such as this blog).  Here are a few examples of sans-serif typeface.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 9.22.07 AM

Sans-serif fonts work well in digital forms because no matter the size, they will maintain their characteristics.  According to, sans-serif is better for children learning to read because of the simplicity of the letter shapes helps them recognize them.

Put It Into Practice

Now that we have established that sans-serif fonts are better suited for digital forms of communication, here are a few things to consider when choosing typefaces.  First, you must make sure your font is legible. In order to do this, stick to fonts sizes that are easy to read from a distance.  Think of your audience.  I tend to use fonts sizes 30 (points or pixels) or greater.  If you can’t fit all of your text on your slide at 30pt or above, then you have too many words.  Remember that too much info will overload the learner cognitive ability.  

Another tip is to keep the number of fonts limited to 2 or 3.  Keep distractions to a minimum.  Think of using one font for the title or header and a different one for the body of the presentation.  Another thing to avoid is using lots of effects on fonts such as animations, shadows, and outlines.  Here are a few examples with before and after applying font tips.

badfont goodfont

Remember that your ultimate goal is so to get your audience to grasp the content of your presentation.  Do your best to prevent and distractions from the learning.  You do not want anything competing with the learning.  Choose your fonts wisely!


Well, there’s you have it, folks! This blog series, Design Tips for Presentations, is in the books.  The goal of me writing this series was to help educators, administrators, trainers and basically, or anyone that stands in front of an audience improve their presentations/lessons quality and impact.  Part 1 of the series focused on layout and the effects it has on cognitive load.  In part 2, I talked about the impact images have on learning and understanding content.  Last week in part 3 I shared how color plays an important role in the receiving input.   And finally in this blog, goal was to understand that fonts are designed for both print and digital formats and to use them accordingly.  Hope you enjoyed this series and were able to take away something beneficial.



“Font Fundamentals – Arizona State University.” 23 Aug. 2016

“Serif vs. Sans: the final battle | Webdesigner Depot.” 2013. 22 Aug. 2016

“Serif vs. Sans for Text in Print –” 2014. 22 Aug. 2016

“What’s The Difference Between A Font And A Typeface? | Co.Design …” 2014. 22 Aug. 2016

“Type Classification : Design Is History.” 2010. 23 Aug. 2016

“A History of Western Typefaces [INFOGRAPHIC] – Mashable.” 23 Aug. 2016


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