NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: Proposals Like It’s 2019: Writing and Illustrating Grant Proposals for the Information Age

Proposals Like It’s 2019: Writing and Illustrating Grant Proposals for the Information Age

Presenters:

  • Tobin Spratte, Arizona State University
  • Michael Northrop, Arizona State University
  • Jessica Brassard, Michigan Technological University

Thanks to our session scribe, Erin Johnson, University of Utah!

Key points from the session. We learned: 

  • Key design rules: balance, rhythm, proportion, dominance, unity
  • It’s not about the tool – even PPT can make beautiful graphics
  • Cultivate a culture of imagery and design
  • Your proposal is an extension of your branding – use logo, color, spacing, visuals to look the part
  • Use action captions to pull text out of your paragraphs and put it in the figure caption instead

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

People might only be paying attention to 20% of what you show them.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

Useful twitter feeds to get ideas: #dataviz, #scicomm, #sciart

What was the most interesting question asked by an audience member, and what was the presenter(s)’ response?

Q: How to convey to the faculty the needed time for graphics?

A: I actually like late requests because there isn’t time for a ton of revisions! But, I also like being involved in early meetings so know what they need and what their primary content will be really well. Some offices will only work on grants with large dollar requests. And they will require early involvement.

General notes

  • The times are changing – we’re in an information overload and people don’t have time to read
  • Changed consumption habits
    • Transient Attention span of 8 seconds, sustained attention span in 20 minutes
    • Reading on a screen, and reading print
    • People might be reading only 20% of what’s presented to them – we want to draw their attention to useful parts of the proposal for that 20%
  • Need to be resilient to the changes
  • Data visualization- on twitter follow #dataviz and #scicomm to get ideas about how people are visualizing data
    • #sciart great resource for graphics
  • Making the most of graphics
    • Simple graph can be made more readable by tweaking where legends and titles are, taking away boundary lines
  • Key design rules
    • Balance
    • Rhythm (e.g., eye leads naturally from left to right and top to bottom)
    • Proportion
    • Dominance (think about what needs to be the star of the graphic)
    • Unity (tie it together)
    • Repetition of form
  • PPT still a useful tool for nice looking images – you don’t need the fancy tool
    • But space does matter. How much room do you have for this graphic?
  • Quick figures – things that don’t take long to construct
    • e.g., use a molecule and define the parts for your proposal
  • Org chart
    • Make it look different than everyone else – like a pedigree perhaps
  • Tables
    • Add color
    • Keep tables consistent in form
  • Infographics better than a bulleted list – just find a graphic to go in the middle and put the bulleted list around the outside
  • Design is not a silver bullet, but can be a silver lining
  • Branding and identity – a proposal is an extension of your brand.
    • Beyond color and logo. Headings, spacing
    • Figure on first page — grab attention!
  • Action caption
    • The caption can take text out of paragraphs by adding action to it (e.g., caption to org chart talks about ability to respond to needs)
  • Know your audience!
    • They are likely to have divided attention that you’ll need to capture
    • They may not know your area as well as you do – be clear!
    • Keep in mind what’s in it for them
  • To convince others, need to combine and convey: ethos (expertise, authority), pathos (emotion) and logos (reason)
  • Cultivate a culture
    • The field resists right now
    • We have opportunities to work with those who aren’t as resistant to start making changes
    • Talk with people about possibilities of deleting whole paragraph and using a graphic instead
    • Transform faculty from mechanics to artists — get them into their creative minds using pointed questions about what the reviewers need to understand and see
    • Find people you can hire – if you’re talking about millions of dollars, it’s worth a little money up front. Be sure to talk to the designer about how they got to their end products in their portfolio.
      • Freelancers who do science comics
      • Get to know your university marketing and communications team
      • Hire a student!
    • Help them think about what they want their final images to look like

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