Generally speaking, serif fonts support readability in long, narrative-style documents produced on paper. Sans serif fonts are easier to read in electronic reporting media.


Text fonts come in two basic forms: Serif and sans-serif. Serif fonts are the ones with little feet on the letters. These are more classic and traditional. Serif fonts are easy to read in small print, on paper. Use a serif font for the narrative text in your evaluation report. Sans-serif fonts are more modern and have a cleaner look to them. These are best for content that will be electronically projected and for headings in print reports.


Headings should be distinct from narrative content in at least two ways – font and size, or size and color, for example. For reports, slides, and graphs, rather than generic headings, try to turn them into declarative sentences. This lets the reader grasp your main points, even if he or she is just quickly overviewing your work.

Sidebars & Call out Boxes

Use sidebars as a way to convey tangential information in an evaluation report. It’s a good place to put definitions, or a summary of your methods, or a case study. Many designers use a sans serif font for sidebars, to visually distinguish it from the narrative content.

Call out boxes highlight a key point. They do not consume the full length of a page, like a sidebar does. They are typically smaller rectangles that jut into the narrative text. Call out boxes can also be used inside graphs to provide some interpretation.

Data Visualisations

In addition to declarative titles and call out boxes, graphs are clearer when the legend is embedded directly in the graph. Generally, the default graph style produces a legend off to the right of the graph but this can pose challenges for viewers. It’s better to add a label directly to the end of a line or the base of a bar, such that the legend is embedded with the data display. View options for data visualisation.


Blog posts

How to rock the text in your data visualisation: In this blog post, Stephanie Evergreen shows how to work with the text in a graph to make it clearer and easier to understand

Labels are used sparingly: In a second post, Stephanie shows how to selectively label a graph because too much text will add clutter


The Field Guide for Evaluation uses a sans serif for its headings and a serif font – Georgia – for its body text. Georgia is a nice choice because it’s a serif that still reads well on the screen.

This short Voice and Accountability tool uses text size to create a hierarchy within the tool, where the main headings are the largest (and light text on a dark background), secondary headings are slightly smaller and indented, and main narrative is the smallest size.

The Resource Pack from the United Nations Evaluation Group uses fonts and text elements specifically for reading on the web. The narrative text is all large enough for screen reading and the font is a sans serif, which tends to be more appropriate for screens. The smart placement of the main chapter titles (hyperlinked) down the side of each page makes navigation easier.

Updated: 29th August 2014 - 11:57am
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