Not every company and client will be sold on your abilities as a creative and hand you the duties of branding or rebranding their business on a whim. Whether you are a junior graphic designer or a professional art director, sometimes you will have to write a design proposal to win over a client. In this article, we take a look at The Guide to Write a Winning Design Proposal.
According to Forbes, adequate color composition can increase a brand’s appeal by 80% in the eyes of consumers, with consistent brand images bringing in 23% more revenue than sporadic, unorganized branding does. This means that consumers and stakeholders, in general, are evolving alongside popular design trends, making it important for creative professionals to present that fact to their clients in an approachable manner.
There is no better way to reassure your potential client of your capabilities, thought process and skills as a designer than to draft a design proposal with clear outlines of your ideas and how to implement them. As such, design proposals are written documents which require certain finesse, formatting, and level of legibility which would be appealing to clients outside of creative and design spheres. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how you can write a winning design proposal which will bring you one step closer to landing a lucrative client.
Table of Contents
Pitfalls to Avoid
Before we dive into writing a design proposal, let’s take a look at what the process is and isn’t. Many designers consider design proposals to be arbitrary technicalities which cannot possibly go wrong. However, simple mistakes and overlooked details can easily cost you your commission, so make sure to keep these factors in mind going forward:
A proposal isn’t a brief
Design proposals are unlike design briefs for a very important reason – they come from the creative and are meant for the client, not the other way around. This makes it easier for designers and art directors to assess the current state of a brand, existing logo design, branding and style guide elements for the proposal. It also allows the designer to showcase how thorough and well-informed they are in regards to the brand they write the proposal for, increasing their chances at making a good impression on the client and landing a commission.
Your proposal should be flexible
If you envisioned your client’s visual style to consist of varying shades of blue, be prepared to hear that they would prefer green or purple instead. There is a fine line between the designer’s professional education and client’s wants and needs. After all, the client is the one with resources in their pockets which should be taken into consideration when debating how closely you will stick to your initial design proposal.
Proposals shouldn’t be sent to cold prospects
Lastly, it’s important to establish some form of communication with your would-be client before pitching the design proposal. While it is entirely possible to “wow” a client with your cold email, you should also keep in mind that a lack of communication with the client will severely hinder your chances of commission. Reach out to them or their marketing and sales representatives about the current state of branding in order to inform yourself of impending work.
Design Proposal Writing Guidelines
As we’ve previously mentioned, communication is essential when it comes to deciding what type of design would be necessary for your client’s brand and company. You can approach the process ad hoc or prepare several questions for them to answer along the way. Make sure to take notes or record your conversation (with their permission) and use every moment to find out relevant information in regards to their business.
- What is the primary product or service line of the company?
- How long have they been on the market?
- How active are they in terms of B2B networking?
- Are they present in international markets and in what capacity?
- What are their long-term goals, mission statements and company vision?
These seemingly surface-level questions can reveal a lot about a business. Maintain contact with a company representative during your writing process in order to get more info and feedback as you come up with more questions relevant to your design proposal.
Writing Tools & Platforms
At the end of the day, any good text editor will serve your needs in terms of writing a winning design proposal. Software packages such as Microsoft Office are perfectly adequate for drafting and formatting a written document but you should always look for ways to improve on the foundation. As such, several tools and platforms exist to make your process easier to manage and faster to edit and ship to potential clients:
This is a cloud-based text editing service which promotes itself as an online notebook. You can access your Evernote documents on multiple platforms and sync your work between them seamlessly. It might be a good choice if you commute often or use more than one device for your design work.
Grammar and proofreading play an important role in every document’s validity and its sense of professionalism. This tool can help you check your writing for potential errors in writing, sentence structuring, choice of words and other technical details.
Some designers and art directors focus on creative work more than writing or client outreach. Using this platform in your client servicing, communication, and email writing can help you establish a professional precedent while allowing you to do what you do best – create design solutions.
General legibility and speed at which your clients can read the design proposal will play a major role in whether or not you receive the commission. Make sure that your writing is streamlined, segmented and easy to skim through by using this tool to your benefit.
Identify Brand Bottlenecks
Once you assess the current company situation, you can approach identifying brand bottlenecks which will become the centerpiece of your design proposal. Some businesses will lack adequate logo design while others might have branding or style guide problems in need of addressing.
Take time to go over your Q&A which was previously conducted and see if you can notice significant problems in your client’s current branding. If your client doesn’t have a brand or style guide in place – that is a problem in itself and is worth writing a design proposal on. Don’t be afraid to address the problems head-on and open your design proposal by presenting the issues and bottlenecks you’ve uncovered.
Offer Realistic Solutions
Simply stating that a client’s website is poor in visual composition or color palette without tackling potential solutions is a fruitless effort. Instead, you should follow up on your problem presentation with potential solutions in a realistic manner. If you can help the company directly with your own skill set, all the more power to you. You will have an easier time landing the commission if there is no need to hire additional creative freelancers or design professionals.
Don’t bite off more than you can handle, however, it’s okay to state that you would require additional support of an illustrator or coder to help your client’s brand improve. Your solutions should also have delivery dates, development milestones and pictograms or mockups attached to further illustrate your points.
Reinforce your Expertise
Even though your potential client may know about your previous work or expertise, it’s worth expanding on that information in the design proposal. Follow up your solutions section with a brief overview of your professional experience, formal education, skillset, design art styles, and portfolio items.
Make it so that a non-designer client can recognize your skills as adequate for their current conundrum in order to win the client over more easily. Avoid industry jargon, pre-print terminology and visual composition phrases which may confuse a client – be as clear as possible and your chances will increase twice over.
Price Based on Value
Price is a delicate matter to discuss in terms of graphic design commissions, especially in indirect communication via a design proposal. As such, it’s important to price your design proposal according to the objective value you are about to deliver to your client.
For example, if your client requires a logo design or brand redesign, you should break those items down into individual segments to illustrate what goes into the process. Not every client will be familiar with design project workflow so it’s important to, in some way, educate them about what a designer actually does. This will reinforce the notion of your professional skills and your abilities as a designer to help the brand become better through the proposed project.
Offer Follow-Up Options
It’s professional courtesy to provide your clients with options in terms of following up on the design proposal you’ve submitted. Communication channels such as social media platforms, messaging apps, phone calls or email can all serve as follow-up options.
Provide your potential clients with up-to-date information on how to reach out to you and be prepared to answer any questions or concerns they might have in regards to your proposal. Don’t provide clients with your home address, landline or similar communication details due to obvious reasons – keep things civil, professional and be forthcoming with your wishes to hear back from them soon.
Be Open to Negotiation
Lastly, you should always be open to negotiation in terms of what you wrote in your design proposal. Once your client reaches back to you with a positive attitude, you should meet them halfway and discuss what can be done in terms of the design project. They might want more than what you offered for adequate compensation or they might want to scale back on the proposal and focus on a smaller segment of the document.
Be open to different options and offer your professional, unbiased insight into what your thoughts are on their decisions. A good compromise can always be reached if both sides are willing to put subjectivity aside and work as two professional parties – a designer and a client.
Writing your first design proposal will always be difficult for obvious reasons – don’t let the process discourage you from powering through. It’s also good practice to ask for feedback from your peers, other designers or professionals working in design or art agencies. Even though the writing isn’t the first thing you might think about in regards to graphic design in the creative industry, it can drastically bolster your chances at landing new clients and making more revenue. We hope this article about The Guide to Write a Winning Design Proposal has been helpful and be sure to leave your comments below.
Bridgette Hernandez is interested in writing and plans to publish her own book in the nearest future. She is a frequent contributor to Grab My Essay and an editor at Is Accurate, where she aims to present content in a creative and understandable manner. The texts she writes are always informative, based on qualitative research but nevertheless pleasant to read.