Nov 16, 2017

How to use FONTS to design better presentations? [Design secret #2]

I have analyzed 170 print ads published over the last 3 years looking for design lessons for presentations. Why? Because newspaper ads are designed by professionals and it is a great place to learn about design. In the first post of this series (5 Tips to use Colours in presentations [Design secret #1]) I talked about colours. This post is about fonts.

In this post I answer the following questions:

  1. WHICH font should I use in my presentation?
  2. HOW MANY fonts should I use in my presentation?
  3. Should I write my slide title in all capitals?
  4. What is the ideal font size for a presentation?

#1 Which font should I use in my presentation?

I will answer this question at two levels. First, you need to decide the type of font you want to use. Second, you decide which specific font you want to use within that type.

Two types of fonts
  • Serif fonts
  • Sans-serif fonts
Look at this advertisement by ROLEX. The line below ROLEX logo... THE LADY-DATEJUST is written in sans-serif. Even this blog post has been written in sans-serif. The paragraph below... The classically feminine Rolex... is written in serif font.
Here is an image which explains serif and sans-serif better. The fonts on the left (serif) have a serif on the edges. Notice how the T differs.
The thumb-rule is:
  • Use serif fonts when you have lots of text and you need to print it. Because serif is easier to read.
  • Use sans-serif when you need to project on screen (computer / mobile / projector).
So for presentations, the recommended font type is sans-serif.

Interestingly, 95% ads I have analyzed have used sans-serif only. That goes against the thumb-rule. One of the reasons is that those fonts are stylish and easy to read. Moreover, using serif fonts might make your design look old. Sans-serif is more modern.

Look at the next two ads. The first one is for a premium real-estate brand. The second one is by a premium retail store selling furniture and other stuff. Which one looks modern?
The second one looks more modern. As I mentioned, 95% of the ads now-a-days use sans-serif fonts. There is one ad however where serif has looked good. That is because of the type of font used. So selecting a good font is critical.

Which font will you use in your presentation?

When in doubt, use sans-serif. Use serif only when it goes with the theme (old, classic) or the mood (too formal).

Which sans-serif font will you use?
  • Arial?
  • Calibri?
  • Verdana?
Avoid these standard fonts because they are run-of-the-mill and not exciting. Download a good free font from Google Fonts and use it in all your presentations. Try one of these fonts:
  • Roboto (recommended)
  • Open Sans (recommended)
  • Montserrat (for slide title)
  • Oswald (for slide title)
  • Work sans
  • Arimo
  • Muli
  • Catamaran
  • Archivo Narrow
Read this post to know more about how to search and download free fonts from Google Fonts: 7 Secrets of designing beautiful PowerPoint Presentations.

Stick to fonts which are easy to read and go with the mood you want to set. Trying to use fancy fonts can backfire too. The next ad has used a fancy font. Do you like it?

#2 How many fonts should I use in my presentation?

Many presenters end up using too many fonts in one presentation. Many others just use one. How many are ideal? Let us look at some print ads and learn from them.
There are two fonts in this ad. The headline on the top uses a font that is slightly different from the small line below. Both the fonts go well together. This is called 'font pairing'. Some fonts go well together and some don't. The next ad has 3 different fonts and somehow the pairing is not very great.

Most ads use just one or two fonts. If they use one font, the headline is usually in capitals. That makes the headline stand out.

How many fonts should you use in a presentation?

Use two fonts. There are two separate ways to do it.

  1. Two different font families. Say, Roboto and Open Sans. One font for the slide title and one for the body (rest of the text)
  2. Choose one font family. Say you pick Roboto. Use Roboto Black for slide title and Roboto Light for the body.
When we use fonts from the same family, we do not need to worry about font pairing. They always go well together.

If you want to go with option 1 and pick two different font families then you will have to ensure the fonts go well together. One way is trial and error. Use the fonts and see for yourself. The other option is to take the help of Google Fonts.

Click on the font's page. Say you choose Open Sans. Go down and look to your left. Here is the screenshot. Look to your left.
The suggested font pairings with Open Sans are Roboto, Lato, Oswald, Raleway and Source Sans Pro. Choose one font from this list and then do your trial and error. This way you'll save a lot of time in testing which combination appeal to you.

#3 Should I write my slide title in all capitals?

I have analyzed so many newspaper ads and found that most of them use all capitals in its headline. That is the best way to draw the attention of the reader to the most important element.

On a slide, you might want the audience to see the title first. You might have written down your most important message there.
The headline is in all capitals. Interestingly the text below the icons is in all capitals too. Now look at Google Pixel 2's ads below. The headline is big but not in all capitals. It still looks good.

As a thumb-rule, when you have too many words avoid all capitals. It is not easy to read. Now look at the next ad.
All capital at the top looks good. What matters is not just capital letters, but the size of the font, number of words and placement of the headline. It is a total package. Look at the next ad. Too much of all capitals is not good.

Should I write my slide title in all capitals?

Yes and No. Depends on what you like and how it looks on the slide. I have made some presentations with the title in all capitals and I have made many without it. When in doubt, avoid all capitals.

#4 What is the ideal font size for a presentation?

In an online poll conducted many years back I had found that 68% presenters were using fonts of size 11-20. A lot of presenters use small font sizes because they have a lot to say on one slide.

Here is a thumb-rule for font sizes:
  • Presentation delivered on a laptop: 30-40 for title and 18-24 for body
  • Presentation delivered in a small boardroom:  34-44 for title and 24-28 for body
Whenever in doubt, go for a bigger font size. If you are presenting at a venue, visiting the venue in advance is good. You can check out the font size on the screen. Ensure the last person in the audience is able to clearly read the text.

Talking about font size, there is something very interesting to learn from analyzing print ads. Look at this ad.

The fonts in the first two lines are bigger than the fonts in the next two. This creates a clear sense of order (designers call it hierarchy). The designer is deciding how the audience will view the design. You read the headline and then read the next part. This is critical in a slide too. The font size of the slide title should be a lot more than the body text.

This ad could have been more impactful if the font sizes were strikingly different. The text above and below the spoon do not differ too much in font size. The title should always be a lot bigger. Look at the next ad to see how it is done.


  1. Use sans-serif fonts in your presentation.
  2. Instead of using the standard sans-serif fonts like Arial, Calibri and Verdana try new fonts like Roboto, Open Sans and Montserrat.
  3. Download these free fonts from Google Fonts.
  4. Do not use more than 2 fonts in a presentation.
  5. Either use 2 different font families (Roboto & Open Sans) or 2 different fonts from the same font family (Roboto Black & Roboto Light).
  6. When in doubt, avoid writing your slide title in all capital letters.
  7. Use large legible fonts in a presentation. If your audience will view your slides on a laptop, use 30+ fonts for title and 18+ for body.
  8. Make your slide title a lot bigger than your body (in terms of font size)
  9. Look at newspaper ads and learn from them :)
This concludes my second post in this series. Read my first post of the Design Secret Series here: 5 Tips to use Colours in presentations [Design secret #1]

Have a question? Mention in the comments section below. Like an ad? Share it with me as well.

Oct 30, 2017

Should you email your sales proposal as a PDF?

You are sending a sales proposal to a new prospect. Should you email a PPTX file or a PDF? Here are the benefits of sharing a PDF:

1. Lowers the file size. Converting your PowerPoint to PDF saves a lot of space. It is easier and faster to email. Your client will surely email the proposal to many others within her organization. Make it easy for her. How much compression is possible? I recently compressed a 20 MB PPTX file to a 1.2 MB PDF file. That's a reduction of 18.8 MB!

2. Opens on all devices. Your client (or her colleagues) might open your sales proposal on their mobile, tablet or laptop. They could load it onto Google Drive and open straight from there. PDF will work better on all OS, devices and platforms.

3. Preserves special fonts. Converting your PowerPoint to PDF preserves all the special fonts used. If you email your PPTX file and you forget to embed the special fonts, the client's computer will replace those fonts with some other font and totally screw up the formatting. That will seriously go against you.

Do you email your sales proposals as a PDF?
Why not?

Oct 24, 2017

5 Tips to use Colours in presentations [Design secret #1]

I have analyzed 125 ads published in the last 3 years in various newspapers. Why? Newspaper ads are designed by professional designers who get paid for doing this. They put out their best designs in newspapers to help their clients sell more stuff. So analyzing these ads can teach us a lot about good design. You can apply these secrets to design better presentations, posters and leaflets. In this post (Part 1) we will talk about colours.


Colour is perhaps the most critical design element. Use it well and you create harmony which appeals to the eye. Use it badly and you have chaos and you'll repel your audience. When you design a presentation or a leaflet you have to decide on many things around colour. Make sure you decide consciously.
  1. How many colours do I use?
  2. How do I connect colours to create harmony and balance?
  3. Which colours go well together? (colour combinations)
  4. What should be my background colour? (most of your text will come over it)
  5. How do I highlight using colours?

#1 Connect colours to create harmony and balance

Let us look at a few ads to understand harmony.

This ad uses very few colours and the predominant colour at the bottom (green) is used to write the headline at the top. This creates a more pleasant feel. There is a connection.

In this ad we have many colours but the sense of harmony is there. Colours are not clashing with each other. The headline on the top is in the same purple colour which is used so heavily at the bottom. Purple is the main colour here.
This style is very common and I have noticed it in scores of ads. Here again, we see the brand colour blue is used for the headline on the top. The blue headline looks good and creates harmony in design. No wonder the colour of the man's shirt is blue too. Nothing is random and the designer thinks about everything. Lots of brands make sure their models wear brand colours in the ads.
The shirt, the circle behind the product, the colour of FREE are all green. This again is no coincidence. However, excess use of the same colour on the same page can start to work against you.

Key takeaways

  • Make your colours go well with one another
  • Avoid using too many colours in your design
  • Colour your headline with the main colour of your design. The main colour usually is the brand or corporate colour

#2 How many colours do I use?

Whether you are designing a leaflet or a presentation you need to decide on the number of colours. Too many and you will create chaos. Colour tells the audience what is more important. Colour creates a pleasant experience.
This ad uses 3 colours. The main colour is yellow and the background colour is whitish (off white). Red has been used as a highlight colour. Limited use of red catches your eye.
There are 3 colours here too. The main colour is deep blue, the other colour is light grey and red is the highlight colour. Deep blue has also been used as the background colour. How did the designer arrive at this? How did she choose these 3 colours?

All the colours have come out of the bank's logo (it is there on the top). The logo is red and deep blue. Light grey has been used since it creates good contrast with deep blue. The designer has ensured that the red at the bottom is the same as the brand red. This creates harmony and balance.
Look at this ad. You don't know what to focus on. There are just too many colours. Having few colours allows you to navigate and make sense of the design. It tells us what is important and what is not.

Key takeaways

  • Use 3 colours in your design. Not more.
  • Choose these colours from your brand or corporate colour. Else, choose it depending on what feel you want to create.
  • Keep one colour for highlight. Use it only once or twice in your design.

#3 Which colours go well together? (Colour combinations)

Many colours go well together and enhance the experience. Some colours just don't go well together.
Dark grey goes well with light blue here. In fact you can see two different shades of blue here.
Blue and yellow form an energetic combination here. But not so well in the next ad.
Look at the next ad below. Golden orange colour has combined well with blue. Both of them are not too bright (like the IndiGo ad above).
After analyzing 125 ads, I have noticed that two bright colours (as you see in IndiGo ad) are never used together in equal proportions. They start fighting for attention. One bright colour is usually combined with white (light colour) or black (dark colour). It is also important to choose your background colour well. You want the audience to read your text comfortably.
Most ads have a dark background or a light background. That is because our eyes are comfortable with black or white as the background colour. Let us explore background colour in more detail in the next point.

Key takeaways

  • Do not use more than two bright colours in one design
  • If you are using 2 main colours, pick one bright colour and one light or dark colour. You can use a third colour for highlight
  • When you choose your 3-4 colours, make sure they go well together. If they are your corporate colours they will go well together (because your ad agency would have created it that way)
  • Most colours go well with white (light colour) and black (dark colour). Light colours like yellow will never combine well with another light colour (say white). A dark colour like deep blue will not combine well with black.

#4 What should be my background colour?

Background colour is the colour on which most of your text is printed. Designers call this text 'body copy'. Usually the best background colour for your presentation or leaflet is black, white or your brand colour (if it is light or dark).
This ad is a good example of a brand colour being used as a background colour. The background colour has to be comfortable on the eyes because this colour will cover a huge portion of your design.

Imagine what would happen if this Google Pixel ad did not have white as its background colour. Imagine the background was blue or red or yellow or green (the Google logo colours). It would have been a nightmare to look at it for a long time.

Key takeaways

  • Don't go for a very bright background colour.
  • Stick to a light colour or choose a dark colour. Light grey background colour works very well for presentations. It is better than pure white. You may choose a brighter colour for leaflets (when there is less text to read)

#5 How do I highlight using colours?

Now that we have decided to use not more than 3 to 4 colours, one of these colours will be used to highlight something important in your design. What has been highlighted in this Coke ad?
'Less than 100 calories' and 'same great taste'. The colour used is the same Coke red. In fact you would have already noticed that there are 2 main colours in this ad; red and grey. The headline on the top is red and so is the can. Coke is strengthening its association with the colour red. 
This ad uses grey as its background colour. The headline is highlighted with a dark grey (almost black) colour. The sub-headline has been highlighted with orange. The orange colour has been picked from the house in the image above. It is not an accident but carefully planned by the designer. The blue icons derive their colour from the brand logo (top right).
This ad is interesting. You have one photograph which covers the entire design area (canvas). The logo is white and so is the headline at the bottom. The highlight colour is blue and it is your call to action. If you do not highlight it, it might not even be noticed by many readers. The logo and text have been placed carefully so that parts of the image act as background by offering sufficient colour contrast (difference).
The designer has used red to highlight the fact that a sale is going on. Red is a very common colour used to highlight.

Key takeaways

  • You have created a palette of 3-4 colours. Pick one bright colour which is very different from others. Use it to highlight.
  • Always use bright colours for highlight. Red is the most popular colour as it attracts attention. That's why most brands use RED to promote 'sale' or 'offers'.

Putting it all together

Let us now view two ads keeping in mind what we have just learnt. Take a look at some ads and observe the following:

  • How many colours have been used?
  • How has the designer created colour harmony?
  • Do the colours go well together?
  • What is the background colour?
  • Which colour has been used to highlight?
This ad has 4 colours; black, grey, golden and white. Premium brands usually stick to black and grey colours. Gold signifies premium too. Gold, grey and black go well together. The font colour is white, and when written over black it is very easy to read.
This ads has a very nice feel. We have a photograph with lots of bright colours. Blue here is the main colour. The sky is blue, the logo is blue, lots of balloons are blue and the headline 'NEW ARRIVALS' is blue too. So much of blue has created a sense of harmony. Notice that all the blues are not the same. Dark blue over light blue looks good. Try this style (deep over light) in your design and re-create this feel.

Most important takeaway

Before designing any presentation or marketing collateral, create a palette of 3-4 colours. Have one or two bright colours and one light and one dark colour. Stick to this palette and your design will wow your audience. Choose the colours which connect with your topic. If you are making a marketing collateral, you will have to play with brand colours.

In the next post, we will learn about another aspect of design. If you have any questions, ask me in the comments section or email to vivek [at] jazz factory [dot] in.

Oct 16, 2017

Elon Musk starts every Product Launch presentation this way

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, is a famous entrepreneur. His company Tesla is harnessing the power of the sun to run cars and homes. His company SpaceX plans to colonize Mars. He sold his previous company PayPal to eBay for $1.5 Billion. Every presentation he makes is watched closely by millions.

So how does this rock star entrepreneur start his product launch presentation? I have analyzed four of his major product launch presentations.
  1. Tesla Powerwall (solar battery)
  2. Tesla Model 3 car
  3. Tesla solar roof
  4. SpaceX mars mission

Elon Musk started each product launch presentation the same way.

He started with WHY, not with WHAT

Elon Musk said this when he launched Tesla Model 3.
"Welcome everyone to the Model 3 unveil. We have an amazing product to show you tonight. I think you gonna be blown away. And... I want to preface this with... Why are we doing this? Why does Tesla exist? Why are we making electric cars? Why does it matter?"

He answered it himself. He said, "It's very important to accelerate the transition to sustainable transport... This is really important for the future of the world. We have record high CO2 levels."

Elon Musk said this when he launched the solar roof:
"I will start off by just talking about the reason why we are doing this? Which is, as you may have read, we are reaching record CO2 levels. Global warming is a serious crisis and we need to do something about that.

Elon Musk said this when he talked about colonizing Mars:
"Welcome everyone. I am gonna talk more about what it takes to become a multi-planet species. Just a brief refresher on why this is important. I think fundamentally the future is vastly more exciting and interesting if we are a spacefaring civilization and a multi-planet species than if we are not. You want to be inspired by things. You want to wake up in the morning and think that the future is going to be great. And that's what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It's about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exiting than going out there and being among the stars. That's why."

Elon Musk had started the launch of the Tesla Powerwall in a similar manner too. In this product launch presentation, he again talked about rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere. He talked about the need to do something about it.

Why does he start with WHY and should you do the same?

Elon Musk could have simply said WHAT he was launching and HOW does it work. Why did he then choose to start with WHY? Because the why matters. It makes people care about what you do and how you do it. Simon Sinek in his famous book (and a TED talk) explains in detail why it is important to start with WHY.

Let us take the Tesla solar roof as an example.

  • What: Tesla solar roof is a beautiful and affordable solar panel that captures solar power and gives you free energy. It looks better and lasts longer than a normal roof.
  • How: Tesla solar roof is made of glass. It is tougher and lasts longer. It costs less too. We do hydrographic printing so that each tile is unique. But no two roofs are the same.
  • Why: Our planet is facing global warming and rising CO2 levels. We need to do something about it. Our mission at Tesla is to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy.

If you too are launching an important product, pause for a moment and think. Instead of jumping into WHAT your product is and HOW does it work, can you start with WHY does it matter? Why does it matter to you and why does it matter to the audience?

Starting with WHY will arouse interest among your audience and it will make them care more about your product and your company.

Read more about starting with why: How do you start your Company Profile presentation?

Oct 10, 2017

What is Picture Presentation feature in PowerPoint?

PowerPoint has a new feature called 'PowerPoint Picture Presentation'. When you save your presentation as a picture presentation, PowerPoint converts all your slides into pictures. All the elements on a slide are converted into a single image.

Where is it?

File --> Save As --> Choose a folder --> Save as type --> PowerPoint Picture Presentation. You can save your existing presentation as a picture presentation. Make sure you keep a copy of your original, as you cannot edit the picture presentation. The format of the new presentation is still .pptx

When do you need it?

  • To reduce the size of your presentation. The file size will come down significantly.
  • To protect your special fonts. If you have used special fonts, converting your presentation into a picture presentation will preserve everything perfectly.

What do you lose?

Animations. Slide transitions remain intact but all the animations on a slide go away. That is because all the elements on a slide are being clubbed together into one single image.

Try this feature out. It will help you one day :)