Effective Visual Design for Proposal Writing


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Virginia Tech


The field of document design has gained considerable attention over the past couple of decades. New technology has drastically increased the design possibilities for writers, and researchers are gaining greater insight into the way that readers interact with the visual elements of their texts. This has led to an explosion in the availability of guidance on document design, but there are still areas where the research is incomplete. One of these areas concerns a common but important type of document: the proposal. There are numerous guides on proposal writing, but most of them are concerned with content and give little attention to document design. Since successful proposals are crucial to both the business and non-profit arenas, it is important that the documents are accessible and make a good impression on reviewers. Good document design can help.

In this study I took the existing research on document design and developed a set of questions meant to address the different elements of document design. I tested a sampling of both grant proposals and contract proposals using those questions with a system of scoring based on Likert scaling. I combined the quantitative results with qualitative responses from interviews in order to gain insight regarding the overall effect of visual design elements in proposals. The results of this study showed that there are certain elements of document design (such as layout or contrast) that are important to proposals, but that non-design factors (such as cost or experience) usually outweigh the design for evaluation purpose.



document design, layout, contrast, proposals, visual design