Setting Up a New Proposal in InDesign

Setting Up InDesign Documents for Proposals

One of the most surprising challenges when it comes to starting a proposal is getting the template right. Your proposal template should be simple, clean, and responsive.

But first, you need to set up a document in InDesign. Here are the basics for quickly setting up a document for your proposal using Adobe InDesign.

Step 1: Review the RFP

Check out the RFP for any formatting requirements.

  • How wide should the margins be?
  • What size and type of font do you need to use?
  • What line spacing is required?
  • What sections and headings will be included?
  • How many types of subheadings will you need to define?
  • What kinds of tables, graphics, charts, and diagrams will be necessary?
  • Will you need to plan for any large-format pages, like 11″ x 17″ sheets?
  • Will you need to print on both sides of the sheet, or just one side?
  • How many columns will most pages need?

Once you know what your document must do to be compliant with the RFP, you can set up your basic document in InDesign.

New Document Set-up in InDesign
Set up your proposal so that it matches the RFP right from the start.

Step 2: Set Up the Document

In InDesign, select File –> New… –> Document.

For documents that will be printed, leave “Intent” on “Print.”

If you know how many pages you’ll eventually have in the proposal, you can enter that number in the “Number of Pages” field.

If your document is not the first section in the complete proposal, you can enter a starting page number in the “Start Page #” field here.

If you need to print the document on both sides, keep “Facing Pages” selected. If your document will be printed single-sided, uncheck the box next to “Facing Pages.”

Go ahead and select “Primary Text Frame” to reduce the amount of work you’ll need to put into creating and deleting pages in your document after you create Master Pages. We’ll discuss this aspect of document creation in more detail shortly.

In the Page Design dropdown menu, select the correct page size. Unless you’re working with non-standard page sizes, you’ll probably just leave this on “Letter,” which should automatically show at 8.5 in wide and 11 in high.

Similarly, unless you know you’ll need your pages to appear in landscape orientation, you’ll likely just leave Orientation in portrait mode (with the figure standing up rather than laying down).

If your entire proposal will have two or three columns, you can change the number here to make that happen. The Gutter refers to the space between the columns — if you’re not sure how much you’ll need, you can leave this as-is and change it later on if it needs to be altered.

Likewise, you can define your margins on this New Document interactive window. Leaving the chain symbol in the center of the Margins section selected/unbroken means that any changes you make to one margin measurement will automatically apply to the rest of the margins. If you would like each margin measurement to be different, deselect/break the chain symbol and make changes to each field.

We’ll cover the Bleed and Slug section of New Document creation in a later tutorial.

To make sure the page looks how you want, check the Preview box and make any necessary changes. Once it looks right, click on “OK” — and you have a new document!

Next up, we’ll discuss creating Master Pages and maintaining a simple, readable design for your entire proposal, no matter who you’re writing for or what the requirements are.