It happens all the time. Picture a perfectly nice bunch of photos, the slideshow beautiful in every respect… except for the underwhelming title slide at the very beginning. It’s the first thing you see when you watch the show. Doesn’t it seem worthy of a little extra attention for the sake of making a good first impression?
The thing is, people often assume that because text is a functional element, it doesn’t need things like beauty to justify its existence. But there’s no reason why it can’t be both! Text can have color, an exciting form, movement, and so much more.
Here’s a few simple tips that might just save a perfectly respectable show from being blighted with poor handling of text.
1) Don’t treat text like an afterthought.
Give it the same attention as you would a photo. This one seems like it goes without saying, but it’s the most common offense. Leaving captions at the default settings is safe, and won’t cause any disasters, but it’s not going to win you any special attention either. Put some thought and effort into touching up titles and captions so they look polished, even if you want them to be understated.
2) Avoid excessive handling.
The opposite of neglecting text is abusing it with an excess of effects and styling, as if it’s not enough for captions to sit there on-screen, simply being attractive and legible. Just because you have a million formatting options at your disposal doesn’t mean you should use them all. Try to be light-handed here.
3) Keep your word-count to a minimum.
As a general rule, it’s best to minimize the number of words you use in your slideshow. The wordier you are, the harder your audience has to work to read it all, plus you have to consider allowing enough time for them to process it all. Using larger volumes of text can also present design challenges. As you use more words, the negative screen space around the text begins to vanish, resulting in a crowded, clunky feel. Beware of scaling down the font size to compensate for this, especially at the expense of legibility.
4) Contrast can be your ‘not-so-secret’ weapon.
Here are several different applications of using contrast to liven up & draw focus to text in your shows:
If your text is blending into the background too much, try using a drop shadow to make it ‘pop’.
Try using two contrasting fonts – one for headings, one for smaller body text.
Use a drop cap (a letter at the beginning of a paragraph or line of text that is much bigger than the rest that follow).
Using both a lighter and darker shade of the same color for headings vs. body text creates emphasis and is easier on the eye.
5) Text backgrounds don’t have to be a pain.
An easy way to add some body and interest to a wimpy text slide is to add some background imagery. This works particularly well when you have just a few words on the slide. Here are a couple different ways to add some tasteful background content:
Use a photo pulled from the images in your slideshow to enhance the text slide. It will also help reinforce the connection between the captions and images in your show. You can offset the photo to make room for text, or put the text on top of a darker or lighter version of the photo.
Duplicate a single word or the whole sentence, but make it very large, and very faint, displayed in the background like a watermark.