Jan 08, 2020
What good is having a patient room whiteboard if the patient cannot read it? Sure, it’ll still look nice hanging on the wall, but it will never fulfill its primary purpose: helping care providers communicate with and keep patients informed about their care.
The font you choose when designing your whiteboards will be a crucial part in how effective they are when placing them within your facility. It’s not a hard choice (our design team can help), but there are many pitfalls that you can fall into. Don’t make these mistakes while designing your whiteboard.
There are many, many fonts in existence. Some experts place the number at over 500,000. There are 36,000 font families alone, and the trouble is that not all of them are legible, especially from a distance. When it comes to choosing a font for your patient room boards, you want it to be clear, clean and pleasant to look at. It’s best to avoid decorative fonts, cursive writing and anything that a patient will struggle to read. If the writing cannot be discerned within seconds (or less) the font may be too complex for a whiteboard meant for communication.
There is room for decorative fonts in company logos, but for the purposes of communication whiteboards, try to keep the fonts as simple as possible.
There is a healthy balance to sizing your font. Choosing a font that is too small will make the board illegible and choosing a font that is too large will make the board look crowded. It will also leave little room for care teams to fill in fields with patient and provider information.
If your whiteboard‘s font looks like the fine print on a legal document or the first few lines of an eye chart, it’s time to tweak the size of a font.
How small is too small? That depends on how far the whiteboard will be located from the patient. Many facilities have whiteboards placed about 10 feet away from patient beds (where they spend much of their time). Best practices in this area state that fonts should be sized accordingly so that they are legible by a person who is at least 10 feet away. If the board will be placed any farther, it’s best to increase the size of the font.
One further note: avoid WRITING IN ALL CAPS. This not only makes text harder to read, it also takes up valuable space on the board.
Images can make whiteboards more interesting and pleasing to look at. Fonts can also be placed over images, just be careful to ensure that the color of the font doesn’t render the font illegible when placed over an image. If background images will be incorporated into your design, you can place information fields on top of opaque boxes, making them easier to read and write on.
Instead of using full images on your whiteboard, you can stylize your board with design elements like custom frames, graphical information fields (like pain scales), logos, color palettes and even custom whiteboard shapes.
Choosing one single font will make a whiteboard completely uniform. Choosing two gives it a bit of diversity and can make the whiteboard more pleasing to look at. Choosing three or more fonts tends to make the board look messy, chaotic and a bit disorganized. If you are designing a hospital whiteboard and have multiple fonts you want to use, try to narrow your choices down to at least two primary fonts (not including any used in your logo).
It’s also important to know the two main styles of fonts: serif and sans serif. Serif fonts (like Times New Roman) have small embellishments (called serifs) on the edges of the letters. These are more common in older-style fonts. Sans serif literally translates to without serif, meaning the font types do not have these embellishments. IF you are going to mix fonts, it’s often considered a styling “faux pas” to mix serif and sans serif fonts.