Fonts, style guides and Microsoft


I would like your thoughts on producing corporate style guides. The thing is, that documents often go back and forth between businesses with different drafts/tracked changes and if you have a typeface that is not compatible with Microsoft Word (MAC does have font book but not everyone uses a MAC either) then it becomes difficult and companies are not going to buy a licence for your typeface.

So, is the only option, really, to use a Microsoft Word typeface and keep custom typefaces for documents such as brochures etc which will be produced in the Adobe Suite.

Then, you obviously do not want to use a typeface in Adobe Suite that is too different from a Microsoft Word body copy for the style guide.

For a corporate style guide what typefaces and pairings would you recommend using for Titles and for Body Copy? (clean sans serif) And also web compatible.


I don’t use MS Word to produce style guides, and I don’t distribute style guides as Word files. I use ID for the layout and send the client a PDF. I’m not necessarily opposed to style guides being fluid as guidelines are developed – and I realize this is somewhat paradoxical as the point of a style guide is to establish a set style – but I don’t think it’s wise to create a style guide as a Word doc and let the client pass that around and edit at will. Edits, changes, and additions should be very purposeful and well thought out. These are best made between the creative team and management team.

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Sorry didn’t mean style guide would be produced in Word, just meant that would need to choose a typeface that could be used in Word to suit the movement of documents between different companies in draft form.

Microsoft Word is a word processor, and does a good job when you’re just moving raw copy around among authors and reviewers, and the font used isn’t really critical. While some default and specific fonts are installed with Microsoft Office, and that results in some strong associations, there really are no “Word fonts”. Among the latest in that batch of strongly associated fonts are Calibri and Segoe, both Open Type sans serif sets that look good enough in print and better on-screen.

Part of the reason you have a style guide is so fonts etc are standardized. Having a style guide assumes the company is willing to purchase and install the necessary typefaces on all computers having access to draft level copy. That could be anything from a server side install to individual computers.

Documents that travel between two different companies are not often in draft mode. For instance, someone in your company that is sending a branded digital “letter” to someone else should be doing it as a PDF, not a word doc. Same for contracts. Actually especially more so with contracts. Not everyone has Word either (believe it or not.)

Maybe I’m missing something but this question is confusing to me. There is a corporate responsibility and upkeep to having brand standard compliance.

Cross platform standardisation is a real minefield. With Word in the equation it is something that would give me nightmares. One thing I know for sure is if I create a word file on a PC then open it on a Mac, even with standard fonts like Calibri, it will reflow. The results vary from subtle to catastrophic. I hope you find a solution.

You could always use Google Fonts.

MS Word supports any standard OpenType or TrueType font. Of course, most MS Word users will not have fonts that do not come with either their operating system or with MS Word (Office).

You’re right, though, most companies will not buy licenses for fonts for everyone in the company who uses MS Word. Then again, MS Word is just a word processor and people within a company are not typically going to be using Word for creating custom-designed documents.

Every company is different, but most corporate style guides don’t assume the company will buy and install a specific set of fonts for every employee who uses MS Word. A style guide might specify a particular typeface be used in promotional materials, but only a few select people within the company should be producing those materials anyway.

As for rank and file employees who use MS Word, style guides typically refrain from getting too specific in ways that would cause problems, like requiring out-of-the-ordinary commercial fonts. Instead, depending on the company, the style guide might only state that all corporate documents produced in MS Word need to use, for example, Arial (since everyone would have it) and be based upon specific templates that have certain elements, like the company logo, prepositioned in ways that the end users aren’t allowed to alter.

When creating style guides, designers need to be realistic about what a company is willing and capable of doing. If the company is so picky about typefaces that they want all their internal Word files produced using the exact same commercial typeface, that company needs to buy and install that typefaces on all computers company-wide. Not many companies, however, will or should be expected to do this.

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The style guide usually suggests typefaces for written letters and email signatures from a family of fonts. Going outside of pre-installed fonts will mean the IT department or the individual employees will have to be on board with making the effort to make your choice available.

If you’ve coded in CSS and chosen the font, it usually does something like suggest 3 similar-looking choices… a font for Windows, a font for MacOs, and a generic “font family.”

Example: Lucida Sans Unicode, Lucida Grande, sans-serif

I’d do something similar in your style guide. Let people find the one that already exists on their system. Again, this would only be for the “body” content they’re creating, not the headers, footers, or template elements.

Here is a short list of some of the common typeface groupings:

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