New Media’s Impact, Part II: Trial Graphic Foundations

Laying the Foundations of Your Trial Graphics

In Part I, we told you how jurors are changing and the challenges these changes present.

So let’s begin Part II with some examples of new media developments that help explain why jurors expect more from your visual presentations. Then, before we get ahead of ourselves, we’ll do a quick refresher on the foundations of any good graphic – so we can build on those foundations in Part III.

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3 Prime Examples of What Our Trial Graphics Are Up Against

1) Social Media. Facebook and Twitter are major news and information hubs for younger generations. This short-form content is being read, written, shared, and shared again at every moment of every day.

There are Tweets from your friends. There are Tweets from news sources. There are Tweets from celebrities. There are news Tweets about celebrity Tweets and celebrity Tweets about news Tweets – which your friends Retweeted. Plenty of them link to even more content, and every Tweet is 140 characters or less.

Most other social media posts, Facebook or otherwise, closely follow this trend toward brevity. Social media takes the news headline format and applies it to any type of information imaginable. Everybody is learning to talk more often but for less time.

2) High Quality Graphics Everywhere. We don’t need to beat this point into the ground – a quick look around your immediate environment will reveal the fact that graphics are now commonplace. And they reach all generations.

There are even sophisticated graphics overlaid on live sporting events. Gone are the days of John Madden’s rudimentary circles and lines; now they can highlight a player and his pass route in three dimensions, while providing his game or season stats in an onscreen bubble.

3) Infographics. Particularly relevant to trial demonstratives, hyper-polished (and sometimes animated) “infographics” are an eye-catching way to display a large volume of data. But these aren’t just your father’s pie charts made pretty; they’re carefully developed to point out important patterns, consequences, and conclusions with the least possible cognitive effort for the viewer. They seamlessly blend images and icons with text, numbers, colors, and font styles (See Figure 1).

Figure 1. Source cnn.com

Not so long ago they’d be considered state-of-the-art – a true rarity.  Now, your average juror sees them all over Facebook or CNN 24 hours a day.  If your graphics don’t start to approach what your jury sees on these platforms, you might have a communication problem.

Where to Start: Rules of Effective Graphics for Any Generation

It’s clear that great graphics are a given in the lives of new media users.  Savvy trial teams will have to make changes to compensate for these new expectations (we’ll touch on the specifics in Part III).

However, some graphics tenets will never go out of style, and understanding the foundations of effective graphics is an absolute must before worrying about the new stuff.  So let’s review those first.

All successful demonstrative graphics provide jurors with a consistent visual starting point around which they can mold their distinct impressions.  Images that are effectively produced and presented have very strong imprint value and will continue to provide a common visual experience to which jurors can refer during deliberations.  They will also give jurors the framework they need to retain and evaluate your case facts and overarching story.

Effective Trial Graphics:

  • Tell a story;
  • Use strong images with relatable associations;
  • Use visual analogies to make unfamiliar/complex concepts comprehensible;
  • Use easy to understand – and easy to see – language;
  • Use titles and headers to their fullest;
  • Use icons and colors (when possible);
  • Ensure each word has meaning; and
  • Group information together and in bite-sized pieces – be concise!

These tenets work.  If your graphics incorporate them harmoniously, you will be more effective in reaching jurors of any generation.  Some tenets, like conciseness, great titles, and the use of color and icons, are clearly quite transferable to new media, given their prominence.

Thus, maximizing your effectiveness in the modern media landscape is less about reinventing the wheel than it is about taking rock-solid graphics fundamentals and incorporating a new media twist.

Building on these fundamentals, Part III covers how to apply these principles to trial graphics to maximize the salience of your case themes – across generations.  

 

By: Adam Bloomberg – Managing Director – Visual Communications