How to change axis fontsize

The desired size of the tickmarks depends on whether I am

    > creating a plot for publication, or for a talk. I find
    > that I tweak this quite a bit in Matlab, looking for the
    > most appealing result (I started in graphic design, 10
    > years ago).

The easiest way to set the size of the tick labels is

  labels = get(gca(), 'xtickabels')
  set(labels, 'fontsize', 12)

I also end up doing the same thing, tweaking line size, font size and
weight, etc, to make figures that show up nicely in small journal