Basic Information Design for Proposals

“Information Design” is a much-maligned term. It usually refers to the process of organizing and delivering information in a way that is easily used. Many things can benefit from good information design: wayfinding, document design, web design, and so on.

When you are creating a proposal, you want to do it in a way that maximizes your chance of winning. Good information design can contribute to that goal by simplifying the evaluator’s job – making it easy for the evaluator to find and grasp the information you present.

I usually consider a pragmatic approach to information design for documents; one that focuses on four elements:

  1. Syntax. This defines the ordering and relationship between different information elements. Usually expressed as a hierarchy within any individual document, but the nature of hypertext documents means that a complex web can exist.
  2. Semantics. This defines the meaning of each information element within the document.
  3. Style. This defines any stylistic constraints or rules that you want to apply to the information.
  4. Presentation. This defines the way the information elements looks graphically.

What you do with these elements is driven by the answers to two questions:

  1. Who is in your audience?
  2. What do you want them to do with the information?

Armed with this information, you can begin the design process. In a series of future posts, I will explain more about the four elements and the two questions, then outline a procedure for creating an information design. Once you are finished, you can use that design for a series of documents of the same type. And if the design is good – and your proposal adheres to the design rules – then you improve the chances that evaluators will understand your story. (Whether it’s a good enough story to win is a topic for another post.)

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