5 Ways to Fix a “Broken” Trial Graphic

by David Rosenthal, Aug. 16, 2016

When a poorly-designed visual confuses your jury or fails to grab its attention, you lose a valuable opportunity to communicate an important point in your client’s case. So how can you fix a suboptimal or “broken” visual in order to achieve optimal messaging? Here are 5 simple strategies we suggest:

1. Choose a title wisely

The top of your slide is the most valuable piece of real estate on an information graphic. The eye reads top to bottom, so here is the first place we look to gain understanding. What better place to succinctly state your main point? Avoid generic headings whenever possible.

2. Use color judiciously

Some colors may conflict with your messaging goals. Random colors, introduced to “spice up” a graphic, may overwhelm. Either way, you risk confusing your audience. Consider the science of color and the emotions each evokes. Red most often has a negative connotation, for instance, while blue typically invokes feelings of confidence, strength and success. Consider leaving color choices to a visual presentation expert.

3. Compare and contrast

Your jury may find it easier to understand a complex argument when you compare two related, yet opposing or offset data points. This can also be true for a visual: when you present a fact alone, with no context, it is often less compelling than when you contrast it with other illuminating data. Relative comparison and contrast may even strengthen weaker points.

4. Delay key information

No one laughs when the punchline comes before the joke. Similarly, certain visuals are far more effective when you delay key elements in order to create tension and focus in the mind of your jury. Once you have their attention, your message will be more emphatic and memorable. This creation of suspense may be accomplished through an animated “build” (i.e., using PowerPoint to sequentially add information on a slide) or by using a large metallic board with lift-off magnetic strips.

Delaying key evidence holds juror attention, making the message memorable
Delaying key evidence holds juror attention, making the message memorable

5. Avoid information overload

“Keep it simple” may be cliché, but it may be the best advice you can follow when it comes to trial graphics. The brain can process only so much information at once. The Cambridge Dictionary defines information overload as“a situation in which you receive too much information at one time and cannot think about it in a clear way.” By keeping your visuals free of unnecessary clutter, your main points will shine through clearly.

Fixing a broken visual is one of the easiest ways to optimize your case presentation. When slides help your jury quickly understand your client’s case narrative and supporting evidence, the jurors may feel more successful and better informed to make the right decision for your client. And who can argue with that?

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