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  • Writer's pictureIdeas at Dawn

What do “common courtesies” and graphic design standards have in common?

Updated: Feb 3

In the world of proposal design, certain unwritten rules, much like common courtesies, contribute to appealing and effective organization charts. Learn five essential "courtesy rules" for design to create visually harmonious and winning proposals for your clients.


common courtesies and design standards

Did you know there is National Courtesy Day?


Saying things like “please” and “thank you” or “bless you” when someone sneezes, amongst other actions, are not rules written anywhere, BUT they are mutually agreed upon, and most of us abide by them.


Something similar happens with design. You should know and follow certain standards with firm organization charts:


  1. Maintain horizontal and vertical balance. If visual perfectionism isn’t your strong suit, maybe have someone else review the document after you’re done. Because for those who see every visual flaw, this imbalance will be like nails on a chalkboard.

  2. Make sure the boxes are all the same size. I’ve been more lenient with this one recently when other designers on my team are responsible for the graphics and org charts, but I’m old school and keep them all the same size when I’m the one creating the layout.

  3. Use consistent line weights and connector types. As you might’ve noticed, many of these common courtesies are for aesthetic reasons. But you’d be surprised how much of a difference aesthetics make in whether you win or lose the work.

  4. Accurately maintain the definition of staff and line responsibility. If you disobey this one, it might feel downright disregard for the owner.

  5. Follow the pyramid rule. When creating org chart graphics, stack the organization in a pyramid shape, keeping the hierarchy levels in line as you go down the page. It will be easily readable and show off the depth of experience you’re bringing to the table.


Again, these are easy and fast rules written in stone somewhere, but when you abide by these design rules, it reduces friction and chaos for the reader and makes the document easier to read, absorb, and understand.


This will also play positively in your favor regarding decision time for the owner.


Do you have common courtesy rules for design or other parts of the proposal process? Let’s hear it. I would love to know which design guidelines are your non-negotiables.

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