When I worked as Senior Graphic Designer within Amey’s central bidding unit, I designed the ‘Onion’. I didn’t start off thinking I was going to design an onion, but that’s what it was called, and it’s something I often aim to recreate in bids years later.

I now call them ‘Hero Graphics’, but essentially it’s a graphic that explains a key element of a concept, service delivery, or target operating model; with the very best ones being christened with names according to their appearance or function. I believe the name is a key point in readers associating with the concept, and remembering the information it portrays. Along with the ‘onion’, I have created Hero graphics such as the ‘kipper’, ‘dart board’, ‘dukebox’ and ‘revolver’, to name but a few!

Hero graphics sit in a diagram category to themselves, and can act as a navigation aid through a document, as well as multilevel explanatory tools, by drilling down into various parts of the diagram. Other diagram categories may include the following, and all of them could germinate into a Hero if designed in the right way:

  • Data (evidence) e.g. Graphs & pie charts
  • Flows, journeys or processes
  • Physical explanations e.g. CAD drawings
  • Tables

So here is my guide to creating your very own onion:

How it is made

  • Think of it as a 3D product – an object – something a reader can imagine picking up or interacting with
  • It could be a ‘machine’ with a clear in and out, providing a step-by-step flow for the reader to follow
  • Break the concept down into its component parts
  • Provide the reader with layers of information to drill down into
  • It is a representation of a process or idea, demonstrating linkages and giving the intangible a tangible appearance
  • Quite often it will be a collaboration of discrete elements e.g. people, place, process, ethos, communication
  • It can be built from graphical lines and shapes that communicate; or promote an association by placement of the elements
  • Hero graphics work best with words and graphic elements in harmony with each other

What it can do

  • Intuitive navigation through a document or concept (by splitting into elements)
  • Promote reader memory by theme, analogy and association
  • Provide something to be built upon, built up and adapted

Where it can be used

  • Bid stage – introduction
  • Presentations – as an aid to explain
  • Post bid – to adapt