This is point type

Use a sans serif font

Terms like points and serifs were alien to most of us a few years ago, but the computer revolution for word processing has made the terms more common and given us the ability to put them into practice.

As I mentioned earlier in the book, serifs are those little lines that hang down from the crossbar of a T, stick out from the sides of an H, etc. But some typefaces (called sans serif) don't have those lines. Here are examples of both kinds:

Serif: THEIR their Sans serif: THEIR their

The standard for visual aids is a sans serif typeface. This is the opposite of the standard for documents, which use a serif typeface for text (as in this book), reserving sans serif for some headings. For a transparency, though, sans serif projects a cleaner, less cluttered image on the screen. I use it almost exclusively in my visual aids.

Use a single orientation

There are two basic orientations for your slides: landscape and portrait. Think about the pictures you might see in an art gallery. Landscape means the transparency is wider than it is tall:

Landscape landscape landscape landscape

That's the orientation you'd expect for landscape paintings, too: wider than they are tall. On the other hand, picture those grim-faced, serious portraits you've seen of bewigged forefathers—taller than they are wide:

Portrait portrait portrait portrait

The standard for presentations is landscape, but either orientation is acceptable:

• Portrait has space at the bottom of the transparency that projects too low on the screen. That's fine. Just keep your content on the top two-thirds of the transparency.

• Landscape is so wide that a line of text going all the way across the transparency would be too long. Be sure to use generous margins.

Basically, landscape and portrait both give you the coverage on the screen you need. The problem is they give you more than you need. Landscape gives you too much width; portrait gives you too much length. But if you place your words well, either orientation will do.


Try not to have some transparencies in landscape and some in portrait. Your presentation will look inconsistent.

Add some color

Color can make your presentation look professional and, used carefully, help reinforce your message. Frankly, it's a must today except for informal presentations. Black-and-white presentations are going the way of black-and-white television.

Here are a couple of tips for using color:

• Normally use a light background. A light background lightens the room and lets you use other colors on the visual aid effectively. That is, your audience's eyes will go right to the colored image on the screen when the background is light.

• Use colors for your logo and title section of every transparency. This will guarantee a splash of color on every transparency. You'll find this color won't distract: it soon becomes a nearly invisible presence that simply brightens up every transparency.

• Use colors consistently. Don't just design terrific visual aids; instead, design a terrific set of visual aids. Give titles, headings, etc., consistent colors throughout.

If you don't want the expense of printing color transparencies, consider writing on an occasional transparency with the color markers designed for such a purpose.

Usually avoid borders

Borders are those nice looking lines that form edging around a page:

Tasks of a Desk Editor

• pagefitting

The problem is that what looks nice on paper and nice on a transparency in your hands looks bad when projected:

most conference rooms and screens aren't set up so everyone in the room can see the entire transparency.

So the audience doesn't see a nice border; the audience sees only part of a nice border. The rest is cut off. I suggest not adding a border to the transparency itself.

Place logos effectively

An earlier part of this chapter pointed out the value of the top part of a transparency—the part virtually everybody in the audience can see.

Yet many companies have, as part of their style guide, a requirement to have the company's logo or name take up the top 20% of the transparency. That doesn't leave enough room for the transparency's title and actual content.

Notice all the wasted space when the company's name is at the top:

Tasks of a Desk Editor

• pagefitting

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