Many of us with a creative nature enjoy formatting all our documents to look the best we can. In fact, nowadays many professionals are required to show a flair for presentations and document layout. Print Bureau’s Design Department have seen some amazing amateur design work produced in the most unlikely of software packages.
Sadly though, very often these amateur documents fail to work out as good hoped when trying to professionally print them or electronically distribute them. Some of the most common reasons for these failures include image resolution, where images print at a much lesser quality than when viewed on the screen (read our article about resolution here). More often that you would imagine, the problem is exactly the opposite effect, when the resolution of the images is so high that the final document is excessively big to be sent by email. Another common problem when distributing files originated in software such as Microsoft Word or PowerPoint is ‘font substitution’.
Fonts or typefaces, in a very simplistic way, are graphic files that are stored in our computer’s internal libraries. These allow all types of text styles to be rendered in our software, one ‘graphic file’ per font. The more adventurous of us will also go online to find a wider variety of these ‘fonts’ to enhance our designs and presentations. Everything works out really well until we send the file to another computer… then we realise that none of the fonts we used to create our master piece appear to be right. In fact our document is looking dreadful. Does it sound familiar?
This is font substitution and it happens when you try to display a document and the ‘font’ (or graphic file) is not available on that computer’s internal libraries.
So I do I overcome this problem? Many options are available depending on the nature of the project, etc. My first advice is to use PDF as the default format for all your distribution documents. Acrobat files ‘lock’ all fonts used inside the file hence displaying it perfectly almost in any device. Of course the problem (or advantage depending on how you look at it) is that PDF cannot be properly edited.
Another solution is obvious, if you need to send a file in Word or PowerPoint format, be clever and ensure the fonts used in the layout will be available to those who will become your file’s recipients. Testing it ahead of distribution is not a bad idea. Alternatively, you can literally send the file that makes up the font (graphic file) with your Word or PowerPoint file so the recipient can install it in his or hers computer, though I have to agree, not the most convenient. As the matter of fact, in the graphic design and printing industry, enclosing the fonts used in a document has been for many years a standard way to forward design or publication documents.
Here is a compromise and a good tip many of you may not be aware of… Google Fonts. Yes, the internet giant Google offers an impressive collection of free fonts of all styles and types that can be downloaded by anyone and used in all PC and MAC operating systems. In fact, they can also be used in websites and they are available to everyone.
Whatever the solution, the most important thing is to be aware of the problem. So next time you are in a position in which you need to send a document to someone else, maybe the suggestions above can be of help.