Attractive fonts and design for professional documents?
July 18, 2019 12:22 PM   Subscribe

It's 2019, but somehow I still don't have a go-to default template for business-y documents with headings and subheadings and the like. Font suggestions particularly welcome, but I'm also open to design or template suggestions in general.

The documents I'm thinking of are memos, letters, reports, presentation handouts, etc. Mostly with substantial chunks of text, so readability in paragraphs is a consideration.

I've looked at Word's stock options and I'm aware that there's a whole Internet full of suggestion listicles out there, but all the ones I've seen seem to be... kind of ugly, flashy, too big, or weird looking? If you have a really lovely, understated, readable default set of fonts that you regularly use, I'd love to hear about it. If line spacing, margins, or whatever else make a difference, those insights would be great, too. Thanks!
posted by Bardolph to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Matthew Butterick is a professional font designer who has authored Practical Typography and Typography for Lawyers.

While he sells several fonts specifically designed for professional presentation in both print and screen, he also makes a few recommendations for free, non-system, fonts that are generally presentable:
- Cooper Hewitt (sans-serif)
- Charter (serif)
- IMB Plex is a freely available family covering sans, serif, and mono glyphs.

On the layout side, the entirety of Practical Typography is well worth a read, but you can also jump straight to the layout suggestions for research papers and other professional documents.
posted by QuixoticGambit at 1:27 PM on July 18, 2019 [12 favorites]

The book "The elements of Typographic Style" is probably the best reference for this and it does include a number of font recommendations.
Something that book explains in detail is that a font designed to be read on paper is very different to a font designed to be read on screen.

In recent years we have seen the rise and fall of Font Smoothing/ClearType, Microsoft released a family of 'c' fonts, Calibri, Calisto etc that are tuned to look best on Microsoft Windows.
With the rise of tablets, mobile devices and rotatable screens, Font Smoothing/ClearType are now back out of fashion. Retina class displays make the whole idea seem redundant.

Something I have found is that a font which is beautiful to read on paper can be a real pain to edit with on screen, so one workaround I've used is to edit using one font and then switch the document to a different font once it's time to print. If thats too much hassle you may prefer to compromise on a font which works reasonably well on both screen and in print, rather than something which is brilliant in print and terrible on screen.
posted by Lanark at 2:47 PM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Its main purpose is online collaboration, but have a look at Dropbox Paper.
posted by STFUDonnie at 4:51 PM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

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