The Importance of Good Visual Design in Horizon 2020 Grant Proposals

Horizon 2020

H2020 is European Union’s Research and Innovation programme, a financial instrument with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020).

The best-known H2020 sections are:

  • European Research Council (ERC) grants,
  • Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) funds,
  • Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA),
  • Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) funding instrument,
  • Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) pilot.

When writing Horizon 2020 grant proposals, we are usually in a hurry to finish before the deadline. This is why many documents we submit might not be proofread and at first sight look chaotic. Even more importantly, they are difficult to understand and don’t convey your credibility to the evaluator.

As the application process is fiercely competitive, with anywhere between 2-15% success rate, you should prepare your project proposal carefully and deliberately to improve your chances. Aside from cutting-edge content, the key ingredient that can help you with this goal is improving the visual aspect of the proposal.


The evaluators are people with jobs, often in science or business, which means they evaluate projects in their short and precious spare time. They are probably overburdened and tired. This is extremely important and you should have it in your mind when writing your proposal.


Here are some tricks how you can improve the visual aspect and make your ideas easier to understand:

  • Enable skimming so that evaluators will be able to see the main messages on every page of your proposal even without detailed reading. H2020 project proposal template gives you freedom to use subheadings, emphasizing (bold text), colors and figures instead of only plain text.
  • The first two pages are crucial: evaluators have to understand the big picture, quality and justification of your project from the very beginning, otherwise you risk losing your credibility in their eyes. You are unlikely to win them back in the remaining part of the proposal.
  • Establish your story with visual elements, which convey the message in a compelling, good looking manner and are easy to understand.
  • Use a graphical abstract. The idea of a graphical abstract is to capture the essence of your proposal at a single glance, so that the evaluators get familiar with your story already before they read the first line of text. If designed wisely, a graphical abstract can be very rich with information, even if it has to be small because of restricted space. We covered the basic guidelines for making graphical abstracts in our previous post.

Need Help?

One of the services we offer at Seyens is assistance in persuasive proposal writing and visual design. Contact us fore more information, we will be glad to help you.


  • Dr. Zakiuddin Ahmed
    November 11, 2016 (10:39 am)

    your helping is very good and appreciable.

    • Tea Romih
      November 11, 2016 (10:43 am)

      Thank you very much!

  • Mario E Pinzon O
    February 23, 2017 (4:45 pm)

    Short, but clear. Thanks

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