Last time we were looking at worship slides, I talked about colour, which was a fairly simple place to start. Now, we move into something more substantial. We’ll be looking at type. In order to understand the importance of type, you need to understand typography.
Typography is the art and techniques of type design, modifying type glyphs, and arranging type. Type glyphs (characters) are created and modified using a variety of illustration techniques. The arrangement of type is the selection of typefaces, point size, line length, leading (line spacing) and letter spacing.
When I explain type, most people immediately think of fonts. The selection of a proper font to set your worship slides in is one of the most important decisions you have to make. Different fonts have different character and communicate different things. Good type selection will help add to the atmosphere that the worship leader is trying to create. Poor type selection will distract the congregation.
While type involves far more than font selection, it’ll be the focus of this post. Depending on your computer situation, you may have access to a variety of fonts, but likely only a few are suitable for use in worship slides. We will be looking mainly at the Microsoft core fonts for the web in detail, but we’ll also take a quick look at the new Cleartype fonts and other nice fonts in future posts.
The web core fonts were released by Microsoft in 1996 and are guaranteed to be on pretty much any computer. These fonts are Andale Mono, Arial, Comic Sans, Courier New, Georgia, Impact, Times New Roman, Trebuchet, Verdana, and Webdings. That is quite a few fonts and chances are that Office will have unloaded about ten times as many fonts for you to choose from. We need a way to eliminate some of these right off the bat.
Remember our goals. Our choice of typeface needs to be easy to read. Immediately, Webdings is out, or at least I’d hope so. But, there are other criteria that we need to look at in order to narrow our options. We’re going to be reading song lyrics, so we’re not going to be using monospaced fonts like Andale Mono or Courier New. While they may be excellent for coding, they are horrid for regular reading, are too mechanical, and take up too much screen space. Following the same train of thought, Impact is disqualified because it is also not meant for body text.
But all of those choices above were fairly clear and obvious. We’re now left with the fonts that most people think are fine for use in worship, sometimes to my disappointment. Much of the time, this is because we forget that fonts have character, and that the font should match the context of whatever the words and music are trying to communicate. It is because of this that I cringe every time I see someone decide to set worship slides in Comic Sans.
But, we’ll begin with high school favourite Times New Roman. This actually isn’t that common of a font to use among people who’ve done slides for a while for the reason that it’s the font most associated with word processing and assignments. It is a decent font for print. On the screen, it isn’t horrid, but it’s not ideal. However, the main reason why Times New Roman is distracting is because of it’s association with work. This is especially true for student fellowships. We definitely don’t want to be reminded of that assignment we have due on Monday and we definitely don’t want to be causing these things to surface while we worship.
Comic Sans should not be a part of this group of fonts, but too many people use it. Understanding why Comic Sans, and any other font, is not appropriate requires us to understand the background of the font. Comic Sans was designed for use in children’s software and was modeled after comic book type. Practically, the fact that it was not designed as a general typeface means that it is a poor choice for setting body type. But more importantly, the informal character of the font conflicts with the context of our worship.
Trebuchet is a font that has been used liberally on the Internet, most notably as the choice of many blogging templates. While it’s not that great for body text on the web, it is adequate for use in larger sizes. It is a friendlier sans serif and much warmer than Arial is without being silly like Comic Sans. It isn’t ridiculously large like Verdana is either. Trebuchet is typically my font choice when there isn’t much on whatever machine I’m using.
Georgia is God’s gift to typography on the web. It is a serif font designed for being read on the screen. It is a very good font and an excellent replacement for Times New Roman for any document that’s meant to be read on screen. When it’s printed, it looks a bit large, but it does fine if you’re wanting to mix it up a bit. But if you need a serif font for those serious worship sets, you cannot go wrong with Georgia.
Verdana also sees a lot of usage on the web. This is because it’s ridiculously large size makes it really easy to read at small sizes. It’s not a bad sans serif, but it doesn’t fit our needs because we’ll displaying text at large sizes. Unfortunately, Verdana at large sizes is unpleasantly large and blocky.
Arial seems to be an inexplicably popular choice and I don’t understand why. The big thing about Arial seems to be it’s legibility and neutrality. What else would you want in a font? I don’t know, how about some emotion? Again, remember that we’re designing worship slides and we want the character of the fonts that we choose to be consistent with the content of the words. Choosing Arial works against our goal because it tries to be neutral when worship is supposed to make us anything but neutral. This is not to mention that Arial is a poorly designed font. At large sizes, it looks ridiculously empty and barren, which, again, is not consistent with our worship.
Simply going through the basic fonts just now has shown us a few things. You don’t need to amass a collection of premium type to create decent worship slides. However, it does require a lot of thought to choose the right type. But more importantly, this means that there is absolutely no reason to settle for slides with sub-par type. Even though we’ve only gone through a handful of fonts, you should be able to apply the same reasoning to choose appropriate fonts.
Also realize that the fact that most people don’t notice these things does not give us a license to typeset slides without thought. Again, approach the slides with the same attitude as you would a musician on worship team. Just because people can’t hear that you’re playing sloppily doesn’t give you a reason to. Many of these things about type usually go unnoticed consciously, but people can usually tell if something is off. It’s our job to make sure nothing’s off.