Which fonts to use for your charts and tables
…and how to customize them. How should the text appear in your data visualizations? The possibilities are endless: There are millions of typefaces out there (Arial, Times New Roman, Lato, …) belonging to different categories (serif, sans-serif, condensed, wide, …). Many of these typefaces come in different fonts (thin, bold, …). And then they are so many extra ways of adjusting them (uppercase, size, color, …). The short answer: When in doubt, set your text in a font that’s easy to read. Easy to read is everything that readers are used to. On the web, that means sans-serif, neither overly narrow nor wide, regular (instead of bold or thin) text set in sentence case, in a size that’s big enough to read, and in black or almost black. This article explains all these options — and shows how ignoring this advice can set your visualization apart from others. Let’s start: Choosing a font Use sans-serif typefaces. Serif typefaces (like Times New Roman or Georgia) bring you into a reading flow — that’s why they’re great for setting long texts like novels or newspaper articles. For data visualizations, sans-serif (”without serifs”) typefaces are most often the better choice. They look cleaner and are often easier to skim than serif fonts, especially when it comes to numbers. Our free Datawrapper visualizations, for example, use the sans-serif typeface Roboto. Changing the fonts – including size, placement, color, etc. – in Datawrapper is possible with a custom theme. Most data visualizations use sans-serif typefaces — like all charts from The Economist and Bloomberg: The Economist, 2022. Fonts: Econ Sans and Econ Sans Condensed. The Economist uses different styles from the same commissioned typeface for all text in their visualizations. Bloomberg, 2022. Font: Neue Haas Grotesk. Bloomberg’s typeface is based on Helvetica but has a slightly straighter appearance, e.g. in its R and a. While serif typefaces are rare in data vis, they do exist. Serifs look a bit more classy, traditional, and serious/professional than sans-serifs and can set a visualization apart from others out there. Most often, serifs are only used for visualization headlines: The Guardian, 2022. Fonts: Guardian Headline and Guardian Text Sans. The Guardian uses the same commissioned serif font for chart titles as they use for article titles. Our World in Data, 2019. Fonts: Playfair Display and Lato. “Display” means the font is only suitable at large sizes, like in titles. (The font name doesn’t seem to be an homage to data vis pioneer William Playfair.) The Washington Post, 2022. Fonts: Postoni and Franklin. Like Playfair, Postoni is a Display font: It has a high contrast of thick and thin strokes (just look at that “U” in “Ukraine”) and should therefore only be used at large sizes, like here. Pew Research, 2022. Fonts: Georgia Italic and Franklin Gothic. Unusual: Pew Research uses sans-serifs everywhere except in the description. But some data vis designers use serifs for labels and numbers, too: Federica Fragapane, 2022. Most of Federica’s data visualizations use serif fonts. They help set an almost “map-explorative” and literary vibe. » Read More
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