Dr. Lynell Burmark, an associate at the Thornburg Center for Professional Development said, “…unless our words, concepts, ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear. Words are processed by our short-term memory where we can only retain about 7 bits of information (plus or minus 2) … Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched.”
In a very interesting article entitled The Power of Visual Communication by Mike Parkinson, he brings to light that “according to a 3M-sponsored study at the University of Minnesota School of Management it was found that presenters who use visual aids are 43% more effective in persuading audience members to take a desired course of action than presenters who don’t use visuals.” So if the aim of graphics is persuasion, a proposal should be the first place to use graphics.
When we talk about graphics, we mean typeface, spatial arrangement, color, contrasts, headings, lists, graphs, charts and more.
But first things first though, let’s see what the right graphics can do to increasing the effectiveness of our proposal:
The aim here is to create an identity as in the case of a simple company logo which differentiates you from every other applicant. It also works to differentiate the different elements of content and make the reader grasp the process or flow of the content.
- Section headings, type changes, color, and the like can help in giving the content structure.
- Different font sizes, boldface and underlining gives immediate visual impact, helping you to focus on the important aspects.
- Color, used in restraint of course, is a good contrasting tool as well.
- Graphics, charts, and diagrams are a definite way to show contrast between values. Our previous blog on Presenting Cost and Price data had a section on graphs. One tip from visual design is to leave plenty of white space around the graph.
Consistency is critical – following a specific pattern of how different elements are conveyed in the proposal helps evaluators connect and follow the process of the proposal. The key is to avoid overkill; too many different graphic tools can confuse readers. In this vein, creating cues for the different elements in the proposal and sticking to it is vital if you want the evaluator to comprehend the structure of the text and to easily pick out key information.
- Heading differentiation is very important here. Once you have established a pattern for how the headings must appear, stick to it. If it is in underline once, don’t make it boldface elsewhere.
- Avoid elaborate, varied designs at all cost. We don’t want to confuse readers. Visual design expert Parker makes a good point that “as tempting as a creative type treatment may be, there should always be a reason for it.”
3) Alignment and Proximity
The key here is to group related items together visually so that the reader can see them as one cohesive unit. Spacing and alignment of different elements and their visual impact as a whole is key.
- Keep in mind the overall design of the page. Check whether text is centered, set left or right, broken into columns or in tables etc. See how the items on a page relate to each other. Do they convey the connection that you intend them to?
- Indentation is a tool too. Bulleted lists, for example, indented in a particular way convey that the list is one unit and that they are subordinate from the rest of the text.
- For proposals where there will be long sections of text it might be best not to justify the text. Flush left or ragged right is good.
- Strong as the urge to fit in as much text into a page is, large margins create space and visual appeal that cannot be underestimated. 1 inch margins maybe?
Here then were three things to keep in mind for the effective use of graphics in a proposal. In case you haven’t figured it out, most of these can be worked out with an automated system of formatting, consistent design from a composite content management feature and other database features that XAIT can help you out with. Call us.
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