How to Effectively Use Proposal Graphics

How to Effectively Use Proposal Graphics

It seems almost inevitable to receive comments from other staff about proposal graphics. Comments like, “There’s too much white space. Add some color blocking.” … “Can you add in pictures?” or “Let’s swap out those colors with similar colors to this webpage.” solidify the age-old mantra: Everybody’s a critic!

While well-intended, these comments are frustrating and take the focus away from the task at hand:  reviewing the written content and messaging.

Proposal teams toe the line when it comes to stakeholder objections. It’s true that without proposal graphics you can easily lose readers in a sea of words. Yet, sales and operations teams should leave the aesthetics to proposal management.

Why Use Graphics in Your Bid?

A proposal’s message can get lost in long content. At times it’s easier for you (and for your readers) to create supporting graphics based on existing text. To do the reverse would be extremely difficult.

The right graphics are compelling, easy to understand, informative, and help to communicate your objectives faster than words alone.

When to Use Proposal Graphics

First and foremost, winning proposals are successful because of their written content. Proposal reviewers select bids that outline the solutions they need in the written content. Proposal teams must overcome a lot of writing challenges, don’t rely on a stunning proposal template to carry you over the finish line.

However, in Wired’s article, As It Turns Out, a Picture Is Not Worth a Thousand Words, the author points to text and images being more like apples and oranges. Humans process images and text in entirely different ways. Reading text is time-consuming, and can be overwhelming. “It’s no wonder that 92% of Google users click on a link on the first page of results,” supports Wired contributor, Paola Guadiano, “Scrolling through long lists of text is hard and time consuming.”

Now think of a decision maker scrolling through your proposal. Clearly, written content and visual content are important in creating effective proposals. It’s a matter of knowing how and when to use graphics.

Graphics are useful to readers when:

Supporting complex content with diagrams

Help your readers ‘walk-through’ difficult content with the aide of graphics. 

Demonstrating a product or service use with photos, sketches, or screenshots

Step by step instructions do best when supplemented with visual guides. Use pictures and drawings to ‘put a face to the name’ for your products and services.

Enhancing proposal content, ideas, or claims

An image can be simple enough that it doesn’t distract from the content, but instead bolster it. Perhaps you’ve heard the story of how Charles Schwab used a piece of chalk to increase factory performance by 66%!

Illustrating data in forms of tables, graphs, and charts

This concept is something we’ve all learned in preschool – show AND tell. Doing both drives home the point your making.

Showing proposed processes through flow charts or Microsoft’s SmartArt

No drawing board is complete without one! Flowcharts visually represent terminal and summary processes of a project.

Graphics can do damage during reviews when:

Of poor image quality (blurry, stretched, pixelated, dull)

Like dressing for an interview, a tie does more harm than good if it isn’t neat! Don’t make the same mistake with graphics.

Disconnected from and unsupportive of accompanying text

Irrelevant imagery distracts readers from your content and ideas – stay focused when creating content so your audience stays focused while reading it!

Contain illegible text or labels

We all get caught up in vast font libraries, but keep in mind that font types can be unreadable or even completely change the message.

Are unclear, distracting, or contradicting of written content

Novelists often preach the advice: “ditch your darlings”. Meaning just because you like something, doesn’t mean it’s the best fit.

Added in an attempt to eliminate “too much” white space

The key takeaway: don’t add images and graphics for the sake of adding color, make sure they serve a specific purpose in supporting your proposal’s message.

Creating Graphics and Images for Your Proposals

Black and white 12 pt. Times New Roman font just won’t cut it. It’s harsh on the eyes, cumbersome to read, and, quite frankly, boring. If you have a low budget, you can undertake the visual content creation yourself with some free design tools. Or, if possible, you can hire a professional graphic designer.

If going the professional route, try to look for graphic design freelancers. Sites like Behance showcase graphic designer’s previous work and offer immediate template downloads for a relatively low price. Behance lets you review design comments, ratings, graphics compatibility, and designers’ work experience.

When shopping for or designing a proposal template, be sure to choose document software (Microsoft Word, Adobe InDesign, Google Docs) that makes it easy to update content. Templates should also incorporate your brand identity including color schemes and logo. Repeat these design elements throughout your template to achieve a continuous reading experience.

Try These Tips When Including Proposal Graphics

Proposal Design Tips to Consider

Adding images, photos, icons, and graphics to a proposal helps demonstrate value and results. Different visual content provides different value. Use these visual content types to represent structure, data, and content in different formats:

  1. Pictures — Some RFPs ask for hierarchical depictions of executive, sales, or support teams. Try adding headshots to such requests. Pictures are also a great source of showing products, facilities, and services.
  2. Images and Illustrations — Screenshots are a great way of representing online or software services. User interface screenshots depict what end users will see, and can be persuasive in proposal reviews. Like pictures, images and illustrations concisely show a product or service in action.
  3. Tables — Deal with a lot of complicated pricing? Tables make pricing immediately clear to proposal evaluators. Tables are a compelling way of comparing your value against the solicitor’s current processes or a known competitor’s offering.
  4. Charts and graphs — Charts and graphs represent data in a digestible way. Proposal evaluators are able to easily read data, understand processes, and identify patterns or potential opportunities.
  5. Icons — Large icons can reinforce messaging for long written content devoted to certain subject matter. For example, support your content and metrics on customer service with an icon depicting customer care.

Lastly, if you’re required to submit a printed proposal be sure your document is print ready. Graphics and images should be of high quality. Try to avoid resizing images as this can result in quality loss. For tips and best practices on ensuring high-quality print results, check out our how-to guides.

A guide to writing proposalsThe Writer’s Guide to Winning Requests for Proposal

This ebook is developed to spotlight some of the ongoing challenges  proposal teams face, and to provide the fundamentals in creating winning content. Download this free ebook now to develop written and technical skills with decision-making expertise.

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