Pictures in Proposals

Lately I’ve had a lot of discussions about proposal design with clients, prospects, and my team. Yesterday, Matt Handal (who has a great blog about marketing, proposals, and business development in the A/E/C industry) wrote a post entitled “The Purpose of Graphics and Images in a Proposal…It’s Not What You Think.

Images are an amazing thing for readers, they can explain the words on a page or paint a picture in our minds. After all, they say, “A picture says a 1,000 words.” Pictures are great in proposals for a multitude of reasons, but one of the most obvious reasons is the most overlooked – they make it easier for your reader to actually read your proposal. Think about when you read a magazine. You probably read the titles & captions first, then maybe the sidebar and finally the text. Imagine reading 25+ proposals about the same thing. What do you want? A break. Pictures give readers a break in the text and gives you, the author, a spot to call out specific information via the picture and/or caption.

Pictures also help make your layout easier to read. Remember your school days when you had 1″ margins (or 1.05″ if you needed to add a little more)? Those papers are hard to read because they are 6.5″ wide and most people don’t want to read more than 4″ across. This is why newspapers, magazines, and the Bible use columns. My team even uses columns on our internal documents because they’re easier to read. Images give you a reason to have 4″ of text and not have your boss yell at you for leaving half of a page of white space. (If you’re in construction marketing, you know what I mean, they want to fill the entire page.) I remember reading in my certification for SMPS, to immediately stop using the old standard 1″ margins because the most readable text runs 4″ or less (Marketing Handbook for the Design & Construction Professional, page 315). Ironically, that statement was written at exactly 7″ wide.

Look at this blog post, there is no image in the top few paragraphs like I normally include. I intentionally left that out to show you the difference in having images or not. Look at the proposals below (don’t worry about reading them). Which would you prefer to read? Which do you think is more credible with a multi-million dollar project?