Solving Font Substitutions

Ever start your eval presentation, peek behind you at the screen, and notice it doesn’t look anything like what you designed back in your office? Or open a report from an email attachment and wonder how your colleague PDFd it looking that way? The issue is typically due to a font substitution.

Font substitution occurs when the computer you are using doesn’t recognize whatever font is the in the file you are trying to view. Each computer houses its own set of font files which means the set of recognizable fonts varies from computer to computer. If the computer isn’t friendly with the font used in the document, it subs in something else and this font substitution is what throws all formatting out of whack in your evaluation report. You’ve probably also realized that PDFing does not always take care of this problem, particularly in Mac-PC translations.

To solution to this headache is font embedding. Here’s how it works on my computer (a PC running Windows 7). When I click to save my document, this dialogue box appears:

See the dropdown arrow next to Tools, to the left of the Save button? Click it and pick Save Options. That’ll open up this dialogue box.

Check the box at the bottom next to Embed fonts in the file and give yourself a high five. Note that this process will increase the file’s size. Checking the first subbox is a lighter weight option I use for slideshows that are going to be uploaded to a webinar or projected from a conference session room laptop, because in those situations no one is going to attempt to edit the document – thus I only need the characters that are in the file.

Either way, the receiving computer will not be able to download the fonts from the document and keep them. Nope. The font file just travels with the document so that it ends up looking the way you intend when you send your report to your client or plug your flash drive into someone else’s computer.

In older versions of Office on PCs, it looks like you can take this path: Tools > Options > Save. Macs, believe it or not, don’t yet have this capability. It’s a cruel world.

Why I’m Not In Love with Prezi

It’s time to write this post. This may be the most frequently asked question in my workshops on evaluation reporting, data visualization, and graphic design.  What do I think about Prezi?

Most people’s first reaction to being in the audience of a Prezi presentation is “Wow, that is so cool. This is going to change my whole life.”

But that’s not what we want people thinking when they are in our audiences.

We want them listening to us. Digesting our words. Relating our message to their own experiences. Getting activated to go make changes in the world. We don’t want them distracted by our dizzying presentation software. This, sorry folks, is probably the same reaction audiences had to the introduction of those clever fly-in animation tools in PowerPoint.

I understand Prezi is working to provide more control over the quick zooming in and out, after early reports that some audience members were getting motion sickness. That’s a good development and a smart response to user feedback.

Even still, I find Prezi vastly too limiting. While all manners of media can be embedded in the show, the predetermined font choices are insufficient in that they’d threaten an organization’s existing identity and branding system.

Prezi also crashed around May 9. A desktop version is available, but for those who had relied on the online version of Prezi so they only had to be concerned about an internet connection, there may be a bit of a false sense of security in the platform. Prezi crashes seem rare and the company offered free 1 year trials of their Pro version for all who were affected. Nice handling of a tricky situation. But I’m not in love.

City Branding: Miami

A few weeks ago I was letting the sunshine in Miami love me (well, it was mutual) when my partner commented that Miami really has it’s own color scheme and font, beyond it’s famed art deco architecture. It’s always been a touch puzzling to me when designer people talk about expressing personality of something through elements like typeface, color, and other design elements. But in Miami, this was crystal clear.

Below is the sign for a mall near the Coral Gables neighborhood. Granted, it is a new mall, but the sign designers skillfully tapped into the flavor of Miami.

Image of Signage for Sunset Place in Miami

Notice the slim retro font. That’s Miami. Notice the color-based three dimensions. That’s Miami. Notice the colors! So very Miami. In fact, it inspired me to develop a Miami color scheme, using Adobe Kuler:

Screenshot of color scheme inspired by Miami

The Adobe Kuler program is pretty easy to work with. I’ve used it before to pull colors from an image. In this case, with just my sun-filled memories, I simply moved the markers on the color wheel and adjusted the sliderules under each color square until I felt like I was back on A1A, beachfront avenue. I can see going through the same procedure to develop a color scheme based on a classroom observation, a rural site visit, or set of interviews with inmates. How could you represent the flavor of your evaluation project?

Worst Font Contest

Two years ago I ran this tiny contest on my social networking platforms for the worst font ever. Far and away, Comic Sans was the winner. Here are the others that deserved mention, along with the messages they tend to communicate:

Jokerman: Also says “Fajitas Tonite!” (spelled with “nite” instead of “night,” for sure)

Papyrus: Also says “yoga studio” or “Egypt”

Okay, I’m joking. Kinda.

But with these examples we can see how our font choices communicate for us, outside of the actual words we type with these fonts. Still, these examples are pretty easy targets. And they are two years old!

So dig a little deeper and type your new nominee for Worst Font Ever into the comments below. Winner gets a high-five.

PS. Font nerds unite!