Susan Kistler on Finding a Great Font to Improve Evaluation Reports and Presentations

I am American Evaluation Association Executive Director Susan Kistler and I contribute each Saturday’s aea365 post. I have a dirty little secret – I’m obsessed with fonts! Stephanie Evergreen recently gave a great AEA Coffee Break Webinar on Graphic Design for Evaluators (she’ll also be expanding on this topic at AEA’s Annual Conference this November). Stephanie expounded on the importance of color choice and font selection to make great reports and presentations.

Rad Resources: WhatFontIs and WhattheFont both allow you to upload a picture of a font or specify a URL and they will return a best guess at the pictured font. WhatFontIs includes the option to display only free or similar free fonts and then download them on the spot – and it has hundreds in its archive (also browsable). Alternatively, WhattheFont also has a forum where font geeks will help you identify a font if you run into a dead end. Here is a great walk-through of from the MakeUseOf blog. Both of these sites are in beta, and aren’t perfect, but I’ve been impressed with the options that they’ve provided – and the sheer volume of free fonts available from WhatFontIs for free.

Stephanie encouraged her webinar attendees to use kuler to identify particular colors appropriate to a report based on those used by a client. Using tools such as WhatFontIs takes this concept one step further.

Rad Resources: This short article from Chuck Green gives examples of sets of fonts that work together to convey a mood or message. I have no eye for such things and find this guidance invaluable.

Hot Tip: Know your vocabulary when talking about fonts with a designer or using fonts in your word processing program. Here are three definitions that will help you along:

  • Serifs: Serifs are the little ‘feet’ that appear on many fonts. Fonts come in two types – Serif fonts such as Times New Roman and Sans serif fonts such as Arial.
  • Kerning: Kerning refers to adjusting the space between letters so that the white space is similar from letter to letter, for instance pushing a ‘A ‘and ‘W’ up close to one another producing ‘AW’ so that they actually overlap in vertical space. You can adjust kerning in Microsoft Word under the character spacing. Kerning is used in particular when creating headlines or banners.
  • Proportional Typefaces: Almost all typefaces today are proportional, allotting varying amounts of horizontal space to a letter based on its shape so that an ‘l’ receives less space than an ‘m’. Old typewriters used monospace fonts.

Rad Resource: A moment of fun for the font obsessed – take a look at this comic that reflects on font choice

Note: These insights are my own and do not necessarily represent the opinion of the American Evaluation Association.

5 thoughts on “Susan Kistler on Finding a Great Font to Improve Evaluation Reports and Presentations”

  1. I love it! Fonts and mustaches – two great things that go great together.

    There is an entire underworld of font lovers. The movie Helvetica is for the truly devoted (and quite educational).

    There is a new font maker app for my ipad that I can’t wait to try out on vacation!

  2. Susan, I shared the link for the comic on Facebook and then the link to the Chuck Green article and it generated a wonderful conversation among other “font nerds”! My very unscientific “evaluation” found 3 people who like the comic, and input from 4 additional respondents (including me!) revealed little agreement on which fonts are best for publications. One person does not like any sans serif fonts (a fact she attributes to her astigmatism), while others offered accolades for Bookman, Palatino, Garamond, Century Gothic, Arial, and Calibri.

    I appreciate the tip on using character spacing in Microsoft Word. I didn’t realize you could do that with any font. I thought only certain fonts offered expanded or condensed versions.

    Thanks for a great post! 🙂

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