Font size and colour should aid readability by being customer friendly (Article)

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Derek Stockley is a training and performance management consultant based in Melbourne, Australia. He conducts in-house and public training courses.(Google+).

This free High Performance Newsletter article explores the importance of choosing the right font size and colour for printed material and computer screens.

Size does matter! Customers should be able to read your message.

Some marketing people go too far. In the quest to be make things look nice, they forget the purpose of the item.

The Commonwealth Bank in Australia has recently redesigned the screens on their ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines). The bank is currently upgrading ATMs at various locations. The design has changed from a large white print on a blue background to a smaller print on a graphic background. The ATM screen is designed to match the bank's corporate colours. It looks nicer. Unfortunately, Commonwealth Bank's customers can find it very difficult to read, particularly if the sun is reflecting off the screen. The size, colour and location of the text make it harder to see.

Marketers and designers should test their designs with a range of typical customers. In Australia, as the population continues to age, many customers are over 40 years of age. Many are over 60.

Many require reading glasses for small print. There is a reason why Australian government departments use larger font sizes on their letters and brochures to service users. It is so people can read them!

In the Commonwealth Bank ATM example, white print on a blue background was outdated. A redesign was justified. In the redesign, the marketing image could have been incorporated into the background. However, for the ATM screen to be useable, appearance should have been a second priority, or at least given equal emphasis.

Usability should be the highest priority. The instructions to customers should have been large black print on a white background. This is what most experts state is the combination of colours that is easiest to read.

Graphic material can look nice, but it must always be functional first. It is possible to successfully combine both.

Too many marketing presentations are lost in the hype. It is similar to how presenters can use the Microsoft PowerPoint software.

PowerPoint can be a very effective aid to presentations, but too many people forget it is just an aid. The animation features can create dazzling and visually attracting special effects, but these can overwhelm the basic message. Audience members can be distracted by the special effects. Consequently, they focus on the special effects, not the presentation message.


Focus on the message, not the graphics. Make sure the font size, colour and location make it easy for people to read your message. Use graphic design to support your message.

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Derek Stockley conducts public training courses in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, including a Public Train the Trainer Program.

For comments about PowerPoint training, see PowerPoint Training.

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