9 Things You Should Not Do in a Design Proposal Presentation

June 25, 2013
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Every now and then designers get the opportunity to pitch for a major contract. Often a business will have an idea for a project in mind along with a budget and ask several designers or design firms to come up with pitches for the contract. A lot of designers tend not to go down this route (as it’s pretty much working for free, with no guarantee of work) but for design agencies the rewards justify the upfront work and it has become a standard way to do business. In this article, we will discuss 9 things you, as a proposal presenter should not do.

1. Have No Clear Goal

In a design proposal, it’s a given that the goal is to make the cleint believe in the design you are selling. The idea must be clear as must be the call to action. The structure of the presentation must be streamlined with relevant bullet points that give emphases on the main ideas.

2. Writing without Reviewing

Any notes that are submitted for presentation must be carefully reviewed. Note that you will be facing critics, some fresh from business courses and degrees, who will highlight errors in spelling, grammar, and other wrong facts stated in your proposal. If you are writing statistics, make sure that you had a relevant and up to date research from a reputable source. Minor mistakes can mean a loss of trust in your proposal altogether.

3. Be Too General

There’s a bunch of motherhood statements you can include in the intro of your presentation to capture the attention of your audience. But these should stop when you are speaking about the meat of your proposal. Show them instances and possibilities and let them imagine these concrete scenarios related to the specific product or service.

4. Answering Incompletely

During question and answer portion in the presentation, let a lack of knowledge let you down. As a presenter, you should have a more extensive knowledge than most people about your offering. You should learn about the industry you will be designing for, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the business and the trends. A business proposal always consists of these details and it would be totally embarrassing if you miss these important points.

5. No Financial Estimates

As much as you should be knowledgeable on the current setting of the market and competitors, you should also give your audience a solid estimate of cost. Break this down as much as possible so that the clients can see exactly where their money is going and how they might begin to calculate their ROI.

6. Too Technical Details

A business proposal does not need to have too technical details that may only bore the participants. Some clients who are really adept at specific technical aspects may be the only ones who will be interested at them. For starters, a high-level overview of the business case should be enough. Leave the PHP details and kerning out.

7. Unrealistic Assumptions

In truth, you can never know if your design will succeed because you are only in the proposal phase. However, as a presenter you should be confident and at the same time humble about your assumptions. Be realistic when it comes to your design and projected expectations. Do not promise anything you cannot deliver.

8. Mentioning Risks

Any good design has risks attached to it, and could potentionally offend a corner of the market. In a design presentation, you should mention these risks but don’t forget to show ways on how to go about mitigating these as well. Otherwise, you could make your audience back away from the proposal, especially if they are big risks to pursue.

9. No Road Map

The design proposal presentation is not complete without a list of some long or short-term plans. These will be the foundation of any business as they will lead the direction of the design at every stage. There must be milestones set and targets for you to meet to measure its success.


Presenting a design proposal requires hard work and you can’t go easy without thinking the plans through. You should gain familiarity on the profile of your audiences to protect interests. Do your research, get their feedback and win their buy-in.

Photo credit to Michael Kappel

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Enthusiastic about art, passionate about business, and crazy about food, +Tony Evans has spent the latest years of her life immersed in developing websites and managing projects. When Tony isn't working, she's busy dreaming about taking business courses in Melbourne and culinary lessons in Italy.