Where are we up to?

This is the third in a series of blogs on how to impose a corporate look or create a personalised style for your presentations.

In Microsoft PowerPoint – Templates and Themes we saw that a Template is concerned with the Layout of slides; a Theme affects their Formatting.

An important step in designing your own Theme is settling on an appropriate Colour Scheme.  This was discussed in Microsoft PowerPoint – Theme Colours.

The next thing to consider is choosing the correct Fonts.

Heading and Body Text

Every Theme defines two fonts — one for Headings and one for Body Text.  The Heading font applies to all Title placeholders and the Body Text font applies to all other text, including default text in Charts, Tables, SmartArt, and individual Textboxes.

Using a single typeface for both Heading and Body Text is always a tasteful and safe design choice.  However, two fonts can work well together, when used carefully for contrast.

As you would expect, the program comes with a number of built-in font combinations.  The schemes vary slightly between versions, those illustrated below come from version 2010:


Changing Theme Fonts

It is a straightforward process to switch between existing Theme Fonts.  Using the Live Preview feature, you can hover over an entry in the list and see how it will affect the text in the current slide.  When you click to confirm your choice, this will change all the existing text in the presentation.

If you would prefer to create your own custom combination, choose Create New Theme Fonts… to see this dialog box:


You are then free to choose from any of the typefaces available on your system.

Which Fonts to Choose – Design Considerations

Whilst it’s true to say that you could use any two fonts for your Theme, there are some things to bear in mind.

Firstly, there are two broad classes of fonts.  Those shown on the left below are called Serif Fonts.  They are more ornate and have “twiddly bits” at the end of each stroke.  The ones on the right are Sans-Serif Fonts – (“Sans” meaning “without” – from your actual French).  They have a straighter, cleaner look.

Serif Sans Serif
themefontsc themefontsd
. .

Serif fonts are fine for Headings because they work well at larger sizes.  However, the “twiddly bits” can make text difficult to read when scaled down.  So they don’t look good when used as Body Text (especially as labels on a Chart).

That said, if you are after a “retro” look, Headings in a Serif Font could fit the bill.

Sans-Serif Fonts look good at all sizes so will be legible as both Headings and Body Text.  They will give a contemporary, modern feel to your presentation.

Which Fonts to Choose – Technical Considerations

The Fonts used in a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation must be available on the computer that is used to modify, display or print it.  If they aren’t available, the program will automatically replace them with another font.

It is likely that this could upset the layout of your slides.  Text might resize, objects may no longer line up.

Using your own Computer

If the presentations which use this Theme will always be designed and output from the same computer, then it is safe to use any of the available Fonts.  This can include specialist Fonts that you have purchased separately.

Sharing Presentations with others

If there is any chance that the Theme you are creating will be copied onto another computer system, you should restrict yourself to fonts that are likely to be available on that system.

The fonts available on any particular system come from various sources.  Some are loaded during the installation of the Operating System (say Windows 7).  The version of Microsoft Office that you have provides some more fonts.  Other software packages, like Adobe Creative Suite, bring further fonts with them.

With so many possible combinations, there is very little chance that any two computers will have exactly the same list of fonts installed.  Avoiding unusual fonts will minimise the risk of Font Substitution when a Theme is shared with others.

On a Windows PC with Microsoft Office installed, there are about 45 fonts that will always be present.  However, the “Design Considerations” mentioned earlier will rule out several of those.  For example, the Theme Fonts illustrated below should be present on most systems, but they are not a good choice.


Test, Test, Test

As always, before settling on the fonts for your Theme, make sure that you have tested them out with all different the types of content (Charts, SmartArt etc.)

Spending some time on this aspect of the Theme helps establish a consistent look for text both within and between presentations.

And now?

In our tour of the three elements which make up a Theme, we have looked at Colours and Fonts.  The last area to consider is Theme Effects – coming soon!