Master Your Message Blog

Why White Backgrounds Frustrate Your Audience

This weekend, I received a copy of another PowerPoint presentation that consists almost entirely of black text on a white background. The bottom line? It’s a no-no.

Think about looking at the text on a light bulb. When it’s on, it’s incredibly difficult to read! It’s almost the same as trying to read a projected screen of black text on white.

You’ve got black letters surrounded by all that intense white light blasting out at you. Because the projector is shooting intense light at the screen, which reflects it back into your eyes.

The black letters themselves are affected by that beam of bright projected, light. They appear to become thinner. That’s because the bright, white light “bleeds” onto them. They aren’t actually thinner. However, they appear to be thinner. That makes them harder to read.

And after 20 minutes of white background, your eyes start to burn. On the other hand, when you reverse out type (make it white on a dark background), the very opposite happens and the white type appears bolder.

On top of that, white type optically appears closer to us (above the black background). 
It makes it easier to see and read the text.

We see light. We don’t actually see darkness, or black. So our brains have to work even harder to decipher that black text – because we don’t actually see it.

Now, I sometimes get the argument that we’ve been reading black text on white in newspapers for centuries. That’s ambient light – very different from reflected light.

Presentation screens are like television sets … like older computer screens … almost like light bulbs. Nobody likes to read black text on a light bulb when it’s on … trust me on that one.

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