There can be few subjects that cause more heated discussions among proposal managers, marketing executives and graphic designers than fonts. Everyone has an opinion, but what are the grounds for making a bid design decision?
As with many matters concerning proposals, the answer has to start with what the customer has asked for: If the customer has indicated a preference, then the sensible option is to adopt it.
If the customer has not indicated a preference, can the proposal match the customer’s documents? The more familiar your proposal seems to the evaluator, the better.
Your third option is to adopt best practice, which will vary depending on whether the submission is a printed document or by way of an online portal. For a printed document, best practice suggests the use of a sans serif font for headings, with a serif font for main text.
Rationales for Choice of Font in Bid Design
The rationale is that the solid lines of sans serif fonts, such as Arial, portray confidence and authority, whereas serif fonts, such as Times, render large volumes of text more readable due to the visual cues on each letter. Readability is a contested point, but there is no denying that the majority of newspapers and books still use serif font for the main bodies of text.
For online submissions however and documents that are going to be read on screen, the opposite convention applies; serif fonts for headings, san serif for main text.
There is another option when deciding which font to use: adopt your organisation’s own corporate style. Your organisation has invested in developing a corporate style which portrays the organisation’s values and which is used for all marketing and internal communications. Does it not make sense to adopt the same style for your proposals?
The short answer is no.
Your corporate style may clash with your customer’s, subliminally reinforcing the differences between you on every page and injecting an element of discomfort and doubt in the mind of the evaluator. By contrast, a proposal with a familiar look and feel has the potential to make the evaluator feel comfortable and in rapport with the writer.
Although these points may be subjective, someone in your organisation has to decide which font to use. Choosing to look at your document through the eyes of your customer, rather than adopting a business as usual approach, might yield significant additional insights which themselves could lead to more wining proposals.
Author: Ian Sherwood CPP.APMP, Bid and Proposals Director, twentysix2
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