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Visualisation

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The many popular ways now available of turning almost everything into an image have opened up major opportunities, but have also given rise to many problems. One of the simplest functions of “ppt & Co” is that of filling slides with text. And as language plays an important role in presenting, language material is almost “dragged” onto slides, part of a trend towards “graphicisation” [Graphisierung] of language (Knoblauch 2012: 219). Its justification, however, remains dubious; only in special cases (e.g., when the exact wording is important) does it make sense to project lengthy text passages. Used more sparingly, text can serve, for instance, to communicate the structure of the presentation (and to “navigate” through it) or to highlight guiding principles.

Apart from the fact that the font size must be large enough to ensure readability, several other factors influence the reception of written texts. These include the choice of an appropriate background colour for the projection conditions (structure of the projection area, brightness of the room), the degree of contrast and the interplay of colours. This last is not just a question of visibility; it is important not “to communicate with colours in a way that makes [. . .] slides and posters look like a trip to the circus.” (Carter 2013: 39). In selecting a typeface, one should bear in mind that some authors have attributed “personalities” to particular fonts, for example, “Garamond - classic, refined; Calibri - formal, neutral; Courier - retro, nerdy” (Carter 2013: 58-59). Of course, such lists are intended only as rough guides.

The use of typefaces that are more strongly charged in semiotic terms (Adventure, Gumbo, Parisienne, etc.) may be considered for selectively highlighting, for instance of titles. Rarely justifiable, however, is an entire presentation in, say, “Comic sans” - which has, incidentally, been dubbed the “most hated” typeface ever (Bachfischer and Bachfischer 2014). In general, the use of standard typefaces (so called for good reason) is regarded as a sensible approach. Serif fonts are a special case. Useful as they may be in facilitating reading of printed texts (newspapers, books, etc.) - “the little feet at the bottom of the letters [...] help create an almost continual line [...], smoothing the reading process” (Evergreen 2014: 63) - they often prove problematic in projections. The visual effects can be compared by changing the parameters on a test slide one by one. More detailed analysis can be found in publications on typography which include comparisons based on sample texts, for instance Willberg and Forssman (2010: 74-75). Visual material on forms of typographical emphasis, character spacing, the use of different font sizes and so on can be found in Carter (2013: 53-67) among others. Distortions and similar effects that can be achieved with the Word function “Word Art” tend to fall into the “circus” category mentioned above.

 
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