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My Favorite 5 Tips and Tricks for using InDesign for Proposals

If you asked me a year ago to create a flyer or a poster using InDesign—I would have been scrambling to remember how to use the simplest parts of the program. I had some familiarity with the superior desktop publishing program from my college classes, but I never consistently used it after graduation. I took an InDesign Basics course through SMPS HQ to get myself re-familiarized with some of the essentials, and that helped me to adjust to my new job as Assistant Proposal Manager at GPI (where I use InDesign almost daily). Most recently, I took an InDesign Workshop through SMPS Boston.

Here are some of my favorite tips & tricks to use InDesign for proposals:

1. Making your workspace work for you. InDesign has a few options for workspaces, and you can create your own if you’d like. I use the Essentials Classic as a base workspace to work off of and then you can grab tools you frequently use in the Window Tab at the top of the page and drag it to your side control panel. Then go up to the workspace drop-down menu and select “New Workspace”, name it “Proposals” (or whatever you would use this workspace for). Another way to do get this menu is to go to Window –> Workspace. This workspace will be saved for you to access anytime. You can have multiple workspaces that you use specifically for proposals or brochures, etc. What’s great about this is if you accidentally delete a tool/section from your workspace, you can just go up to the top right-hand corner and go to the drop-down menu and click “proposals” (or whatever you named your workspace) and it will reset the workspace for you.

2. Master pages can act as headers for your proposal. You can put the name of the proposal and insert page numbers ( Type –> Insert Special Character –> Marker –> Current Page Number) at the top or bottom of your master page and it will automatically generate page numbers in the header or footer for the rest of the document. This is super handy—especially when you have a long document such as a proposal.

3. Maximize your document by tracking and kerning your text. This function allows you to control the spacing between words and characters (without changing the font size). This has been a big help to me when I have page limits in a proposal. Just be careful not to make words too squished or stretched out!

4. Don’t forget the eyedropper tool. I use this tool to copy a style of text in my proposal and apply it to other sections. This can be a lifesaver if you did not create paragraph styles and you’re short on time. The eyedropper will ensure that your fonts, colors, etc. are consistent throughout your document. You can also use the eyedropper for graphics—not just text styles. For example, if you wanted to extract a color from a logo and use it the color for a shape or the color of the text, this feature will ensure that it’s the same exact color.

5. Ground your graphics with anchor points: Often, I want certain photos to stay in close proximity to specific text within my proposal. If you select your photo and click on the blue box on the top right corner of the photo and drag it to a point in the text, it will create an anchor point, ensuring that this photo will stay near this text—regardless of what edits you make to the document. This is helpful for longer proposals that have several photos accompanying text.


Allison Flood is the Assistant Proposal Manager at GPI in Wilmington, MA. She also serves as the Public Relations Liaison on the Communications Committee for the SMPS Boston Chapter.

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