It’s true, a picture can be worth a thousand words, but those “words” can hurt you or help you when it comes to bond referendums and informing your community.
At CMBA, we are involved in numerous bond referendums each year. With each one of these elections, we discuss what kinds of images and drawings to share with the media and the public. Each client is different. There’s not one formula that is right for all. Given our depth of experience, we offer these suggestions:
Usually in a bond referendum, the District does not want to expend a large amount of resources on the initial stages of design for plans the public may not endorse. You don’t want to consume staff hours meeting over every detail of a project you may not be able to build.
Our recommendation is that your drawings and your communications reflect that. Certainly you need to do enough work to identify needs and costs, but we suggest site plans and floor plans be block diagrams. Written and verbal communications should make it clear that these are solutions to be further refined based on public and staff input.
One danger in trying to present every detail, besides the time and money involved, is that you are missing your opportunity to ask the community for their input. For the teachers and key staff who will be part of those detailed meetings later, you’re being presumptuous. You’re telling them what they need before you’ve asked them what they want and gained their buy-in.
Address the Needs.
You’re asking people to vote to address the District’s needs – not to take an opinion pole of whether they like how a building looks. Don’t give people something to vote against. If you make it look nice, people will think it is too expensive. If you make it look simple and conservative, people will be underwhelmed and want something more. You’re likely to lose votes either way.
So it’s true, a picture can be worth a thousand words, and some school districts have been successful with detailed 3D renderings. But don’t let the power of an image overpower your message for the need!