Whatever industry you work in, when designing proposals, it is tempting to try and cram in as much information as you possibly can.
Dazzling people with data is the go-to strategy for many businesses, but is it the right one?
In much the same way body language and how you communicate accounts for most of the impact of verbal communication, how your proposals look will have just as significant, if not more, of an effect on whether a proposal helps you convert a lead to a customer.
With that in mind, let us explore the significance of well-designed proposals and how you can make yours better.
Why is graphic design important?
We can sit and debate about the pitfalls of putting style before substance until the end of time. The bottom line is that if someone is considering several proposals, they are more likely to choose one that feels engaging and accessible over the one featuring masses of technical detail about what you plan to do to make the project a success.
You know your business can deliver the goods, so do what you need to do to finalise a deal and earn the right to give your customers a great experience!
8 tips and tricks for designing better proposals
Keep these eight graphic design tips and tricks in mind to write better proposals and convert more leads into customers.
1. “Keep It Simple, Stupid”
The KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle is often used in web design, but in truth, you should apply it to any graphic design project, and especially when designing your proposals.
Think about what your potential customers are looking for at this stage. They want to know a bit about you, see that you have done some homework on their business, and get an idea of how you can help them.
You do not need masses of detail, long passages of text, or two million rows long spreadsheets to do that! Keep your proposal long enough to cover all bases, but short enough the potential client will not get bored reading it, especially if you will send it to them to read and not present it over Zoom!
2. Showcase your brand
Your entire proposal should follow your brand guidelines and be consistent in format and layout. Include your logo and brand name on each page, in the same place, to ensure your proposal looks slick and professional.
To showcase your brand within the proposal, include no more than two pages or slides about you. Focusing on visual elements works well here; pictures of the team and past clients’ logos – especially if you have a blue-chip portfolio – are ideal additions.
3. Limit how many colours you use
You do not need to go crazy and include all the colours of the rainbow in your proposal! The main body of your slides or pages should be no more than two or three colours. Following this principle will make your proposals easy to process for the reader and allow you to direct their attention to the critical data points and messaging you include.
4. Get scientific with colour
The colours you use in your proposal can have a profound impact on how your deck makes the reader feel. You have the power to convey a range of emotions via the colours you choose, so choose them carefully!
Help Scout’s Colour Emotion Guide is an excellent source of inspiration on this and may help you mould your proposals better to say exactly what you want. You might even pick up some tips for reinventing your brand identity and becoming better at brand communications in general!
5. Use simple typefaces
You do not need me to tell you that Comic Sans is a no go area!
Yet, it is incredible how many proposals still use fonts like Freestyle Script that are relatively difficult to read. I have come across proposals and media kits from businesses like wedding planners, for example, whose brand does use a font that looks like the front of a wedding invite. From a branding perspective, no problem. To read and digest a multi-page proposal easily? Not so much.
Stick to simple typefaces in your proposals. If you want to do something a little different, using Arial, Verdana, or Calibri is not mandatory. There are many other fonts that are easy to read!
6. Use plenty of white space
One of the worst things you can do in any proposal is to fill every possible space with text or images.
Utilising “white space” – remember it might not be white if your proposals have a blue background! – is a central principle of communicating effectively. From your perspective, it forces you to be concise in what you say, while from the reader's perspective, they can easily digest your message and what you are telling them.
Utilising white space means you do not go into detail and then give the reader a takeaway. You provide them with the takeaway and can go into more detail if they ask any questions.
7. Use your design to highlight key elements
While you should 100% focus on keeping your design simple, you should also think about using colour contrasts to help you highlight key elements of text or data. This will save you from having to create added elements on your pages or text boxes with different coloured backgrounds or features.
If you do not have any graphic design expertise yourself or in-house, PowerPoint design ideas have plenty of options to help you get started with creating engaging proposals. When choosing a design or commissioning a designer to create a template, think about how the design will enable you to incorporate text, imagery, and data tables or graphs.
8. Make real data look attractive
One fantastic way to create engaging proposals is to include real-world data from existing clients. You do not need to have fully-fledged case studies, but at the same time, you need to do more than copy and paste data and screenshots from whatever SaaS tools you use.
Choose the data you want to use in your proposals and get your designer to make it look attractive and like it is part of your brand. No basic pivot tables or Excel chart wizard graphs allowed!
Remember, you communicate with design, not just content
Your potential customers want to know what you have got to say. However, if you do not say it in a way that is engaging and impactful, you reduce your chances of onboarding them a couple of weeks after they have read your proposal.
Ensure yours are designed thoughtfully and kept simple, focusing on the key points you want to get across around how you can help the reader, and your proposals will win!