Saturday, December 15, 2007

Be Interdependent and WIN!

OK, here it is. The truth... If you agree, you will benefit greatly . If you disagree, you will work harder, spend more money, and eventually lose to your competition. What is it? Simple: do what you are best at and let your team do the same.

Play to your strengths. If it's really hard for you to do or you don't do it well, turn to those that excel at it and watch results exceed everyone's expectations. Why am I saying this? Because at every company I work with many business professionals (really smart, driven, talented professionals) do not rely on the strengths of those they hire and/or work with. For example, if I hire a copywriter with a proven track record why should I spend a lot of time writing copy? I should tell the copywriter what I want and let them do what they are BEST at. That means I get to focus on what I am BEST at. In the end I have two "experts" doing what they do best for the same goal. What do you think the end result will be?

I regularly meet with colleagues who work for large and small companies (companies that everyone knows). My colleagues are business developers, trainers, marketing experts, proposal professionals, writers, graphic designers, and the like. Over and over I hear the same thing. Each was hired because he or she was head and shoulders above the others who tried for the position. Each has an great reputation in their respective industry. However, each spends an inordinate amount of time explaining why they are qualified to do their job. They spend too much time (that is my opinion) convincing their team to trust them to leverage their extensive experience, education, and skills to hit the company's goals. That means that those who often question their teammates' ability to do their job are often ignoring their own roles and responsibilities.

How do we fix it? Interdependence is the key. Hire and work with those you feel are qualified to do what is needed and let them do their job. Your time is so valuable. It is quickly gobbled up by your day-to-day. Let's throw away second guessing other's abilities if they have been pre qualified and focus instead on goals, schedules, action items, regular communication, and
accountability. If you and I can make this happen with our teams, our rewards are endless.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Do covers for my presentations, proposals, and marketing materials really matter?

Yes. One of the best examples I’ve heard was for a ballistics proposal. (The names have been changed to protect the innocent.) The United States Army needed a bullet that flew 2,000 yards and then fell from the sky. They had a favorite, Company A; however, Company B hoped to establish a relationship with the Army as well. Company B had tested this type of bullet before and, using these results, wrote their best proposal. They believed they had a chance despite information that suggested Company A was a certain winner. After writing their proposal, Company B opted for a simple approach to the cover and used a photograph of a ballistics test tracer round from one of their experiments. This photograph showed exactly what the Army had requested: a bullet traveling 2,000 yards and dropping. (It was actually an image from a failed field test of an earlier project for a bullet that was intended to travel farther.) With the cover in place, Company B submitted their proposal.

Weeks later Company B won the bid, and the winning team met with the contracting officer. Company B asked how they won—especially since they were the underdogs. The contracting officer said their cover won the bid, despite the fact that their proposal wasn’t well written and almost resulted in a loss. Company B showed they already had the bullet on the cover image, which gave them the edge over the other bidders who still needed to design the bullet.

Most of the time, relationships and/or the contents of presentations, proposals, and marketing materials win the effort. Nonetheless, the cover forms a lasting impression. It is the first thing that your audience sees, and he or she cannot help but be influenced. Behavioral Psychologists agree that most of our decisions are based on intuitive judgment and emotions. Herbert A. Simon, Nobel Prize winning scholar at the Carnegie Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh, studied corporate decision-making and found that people often ignored formal decision-making models because of time constraints, incomplete information, the inability to calculate consequences, and other variables. Intuitive judgment was the process for many decisions.

If you want a winning edge think about your covers. Covers carry enough weight that they can, and have, significantly contributed to wins and losses, successes and failures. You use a lot of resources, not to mention time and money, to develop your business materials; do not ignore such a powerful tool in your arsenal.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

What packages do I want a graphics person to be expert in if I'm going to bring him/her on board either as a permanent hire or as a consultant?

They should have a working knowledge of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator for image and graphic generation and Adobe InDesign or QuarkXpress for page layout of brochures and corporate collateral. If they are familiar with Microsoft Word for written proposals and business documents, then that is a bonus. Of course, it depends upon your companies’ software collection and need. If your organization has invested in CorelDraw, then CorelDraw is the software a new designer should know. If your company needs 3D graphics, then the designer should have a working knowledge of 3D design applications. It is important to note that if a designer has been trained and uses Adobe products, their learning curve on CorelDraw is much lower.

Monday, June 4, 2007

What is the difference between jpg and other types of graphics files. When should which be used?

A filename extension is a suffix to the name of a computer file applied to show its format. A file extension consists of the characters after the “.” such as ".doc", ".txt", ".xls", ".bmp", and so on. I will focus on only the following due to their applicability to proposal graphics:

- BMP = Bitmap
- GIF = Graphic Interchange Format
- JPG = Joint Photographic Experts Group
- PNG = Portable Network Graphics
- TIF = Tagged Image File Format
- WMF = Windows Metafile

I use 200 dpi RGB (unless you are printing the files on an offset press) tifs for placement in Microsoft Word, Adobe InDesign, and Quark Xpress. It is worth noting that jpgs are acceptable in written documents if file size is an issue since jpgs are about a third of the size as tiffs and are only of a slightly lower quality. I use 200 dpi RGB jpgs for Microsoft PowerPoint. I prefer 200 dpi images because they look great in print and on screen and can be half the file size of 300 dpi images. I recommend 80% compression when saving your jpgs to avoid “pixel garbage” in your graphics. I use 300+ dpi RGB or CMYK files for professional printing like brochures, slicks, folders, etc.

I do not work with bmps and pngs because of their history of volatility with certain programs. For example, pngs allow for transparency but print poorly and have been known to corrupt entire PowerPoint presentations. There are many other file types beyond those I have listed but I have found that jpgs and tifs are the most accepted, stable, and reliable for proposals. However, if you have had successful results with other file types (like metafiles—which requires article unto itself), use them. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Where can I get quality clip art to use in my graphics?

For clip art I use Nova Development’s Art Explosion 750,000 or 800,000 clipart collection. There is a lot of unusable clipart in these books, but the few that I use make it well worth the purchase price (~$99). There are other similar clipart libraries available but I cannot comment on their usability.

For photographs and illustrations I like Getty Images (, iStockPhoto (, Dreamstime (, StockExpert (, and BigStock Photo ( When using Getty Images, be sure to choose only royalty-free images versus rights managed. It is far less expensive. For United States military photographs, visit the .mil websites. You may use the photographs in their image databases, but they request that you acknowledge where you found the photo and, when possible, acknowledge the photographer (i.e., "Photo courtesy of U.S. Army. Photo taken by Spc. D. A. Dickinson."). Be sure to verify that the image you are using is cleared for release and are considered in the public domain. This information is usually posted on the same page as their image library or on their “Privacy” or “Security” pages.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Is the Law On Your Side?

The following is another question I was recently asked...

Q: Can I use photographs and art from the Internet in my proposals, presentations, or marketing materials?
A: As soon as you write a paragraph, take a photograph, or make a graphic you own it. According to a United States ruling, once you make something it is protected under copyright law. (The challenge has been proving who made it first.) With that in mind, everything we find on the Internet is copywritten. You may use it only if you are granted permission (for the purposes you intend), or your organization owns or has purchased the rights to use it. There are some websites that offer “royalty-free” graphics at no cost (certain government sites provide free images), but you need to make sure that the website allows free image downloads or else you could face a lawsuit. Also, photographs and art from the Internet are usually at a lower resolution (72 dpi) than you require for your proposals. To get crisp and clear graphics (no jagged or pixilated edges) for your oral and written presentations, you need to use images that are between 150–300 dpi. Otherwise, your graphics will look poorly rendered and give your presentation an unprofessional appearance.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Welcome to the new BDG Blog. If you have any graphics related questions or helpful hints/ideas, this is the forum to share them.

Recently, I was asked the following question:
Q: What are the top three proposal and presentation graphic mistakes?
A: Many graphics fail for three reasons: too complicated, unclear, and poorly rendered. A visual becomes too complicated when the author attempts to convey too many messages in one graphic or includes too much detail. An unclear graphic due to the lack of identification and/or explanation, happens when the author erroneously assumes that their target audience understands the subject matter on the same level that he/she does. The following graphic fails to identify key elements and explain their meaning. The author assumed that their audience knew more about the subject matter than they did. Poorly rendered graphics result in a host of negative outcomes. The worst of which are a loss of communication (or miscommunication) and the perception that image and the presenter are unprofessional.

Do you have a question?