Trial Graphics: Top Six Ways to Get More Out of a Limited Budget

The importance of adding a visual component in the courtroom cannot be understated. Our research shows that comprehension and retention of trial themes is enhanced by the incorporation of effective visuals. Well-designed demonstratives can reinforce your case themes, reduce case ambiguities, and ensure consistency, coherence, and comprehension of your message.

With so many variables, ideas, and possible directions, it can be difficult to adhere to a strict graphics budget. While hiring the right visual communications team is a crucial first step, there are several things you can do to limit the cost of your visuals without sacrificing quality.

In this article, we identify six significant ways that you can help your trial graphics team help you – which, ultimately, will keep costs down. The volatile litigation cycle can throw your best preparations off track, but, in our experience, making an effort to follow these guidelines often results in both lower costs and less stress.

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Six Things You Can Do to Minimize Trial Graphics Costs

1. Provide accurate case facts and materials as early as possible.

At its very core, a graphic is a compelling way to communicate your case facts. One of the best ways for a trial graphic artist to effectively tell your story through visuals is to give them early access to accurate information. Frontload your graphics team with accurate case facts – including images, maps, dates, and any necessary documents – to give them time to study your case before getting started on deliverables. Accuracy is important – facts or materials that are abstract, shifting, or incorrect can create a domino effect, potentially leading to massive graphics overhauls down the line.

Take timelines, for example. Making an effective timeline is not as simple as one might assume – or as it often appears. Timelines tend to be heavily detailed, carefully constructed, and geared toward telling a captivating story while not overwhelming the audience. Timelines are frequently complex and, with multiple events and a limited landscape, putting one together is a bit like fitting together pieces of a puzzle. Adding dates or altering details on a timeline that is already built can require reshuffling a lot of information, and can sometimes even cause a complete redesign.

A good trial graphics team can put together rough preliminary concepts even when all they have available is vague, unchecked, or questionable details. However, moving forward too fast and without enough accurate detail can be costly.

2. Provide high-quality source materials.

Of equal importance to accuracy is quality. By providing high-quality materials, you increase your chances of receiving an excellent first draft, which can ultimately result in fewer revisions and a lower bill. It can be a challenge to make great document callouts with illegible or dirty scans or to create precise 3D models with inaccurate or unclear schematics. Stack the odds in your favor by sending your graphics team detailed case information, high-quality materials, and other supporting data that can enable them to start the design process from a deeply knowledgeable position.

3. Think “big picture.”

Working with an artist early in the development of your case can be extremely valuable. A good trial graphics team can “visually brainstorm” your ideas by working with you through several conceptual iterations. This process of refining the visual story you want to tell can yield excellent results and help to solidify your case strategy. It is one of the most valuable services Litigation Insights offers to clients who have some leniency with their time and budget.

However, when working with a limited budget, it can be helpful to approach a trial graphics team with an idea of what you wish to accomplish through the use of visual aids. Shifting gears or incorporating new details or arguments beyond the original scope of a project can affect your budget, so the more solidly you have a handle on your case strategy, the more efficiently an artist can create visuals to help tell that story. Also, when you consider that changes to one graphic can impact related graphics, it’s not surprising that what first appear to be simple revisions can end up costing more than anticipated. Spend a little time upfront to develop a focused case strategy and you will be taking one large step toward staying within budget.

4. Pinpoint the main purpose of each trial graphic and try to avoid changing it.

This tip goes hand-in-hand with “big picture thinking” above. It can be invaluable to create exploratory graphics and a seasoned graphics team can offer guidance to help you determine a graphic’s objective. Regardless of the size of your budget, it is still a great idea to consider a few details before meeting with the artist. Ask yourself:

  • What story am I trying to tell?
  • What is the main impression I wish to leave with the jury?
  • Are there additional graphics to consider that could help support my goal?

Whenever possible, and especially when pressed for time or working with a limited budget, determining the purpose of a graphic can help you avoid several rounds of costly changes. Incorporating different directions or other substantive changes throughout the course of revisions – or, in the most difficult situation, in the final stages – the artist may need to implement a complete retooling that could dramatically affect your budget. Having a clear purpose can help the artist design and focus a graphic in just the right way to tell your story.

5. Internally agree upon any necessary revisions before requesting them.

Let’s face it: it is rare that anything – whether a trial graphic, a report, or even a Thank You card – goes out the door without a revision. By reviewing proposed edits with your trial team before forwarding them to the artist, you can save yourself a lot of time, money, and multiple draft reviews. Conflicting edits can slow the process down, adding time and cost to your project. Something we’ve found to be quite effective is to have someone on the trial team act as a point of contact within your team, such as an attorney or paralegal who can work through questions or conflicts with the trial team before communicating to the artist, and who can also communicate between artist and trial team. This reduces the chance of multiple parties separately requesting small, and potentially conflicting, revision requests, which can add up quickly. Since it is much more cost-effective to send a concise list of approved edits to your graphics team, consider appointing a “graphics liaison” to help with that process.

6. When case strategies or deadlines shift, alert your trial graphics team as soon as possible.

Frequent and early communication with your trial graphics team has many benefits, not the least of which is the assurance of meeting deadlines and staying within budget. By communicating any shifts in the case strategy, behind-the-scenes discussions, new rulings or evidence, or changing priorities as they occur, you ensure the artist is on track. Delaying communication can stretch your budget beyond capacity when an artist is headed in a direction that has changed course. In addition, keeping your graphics team in the loop can help reduce the chances of expensive around-the-clock work. An experienced graphics team will roll with the punches – partner with them to yield the best possible results.

Complex trial ideas and cases are better understood when visuals are used to both support your case and explain labyrinthine concepts to jurors. Use these tips when working with a trial graphics team to keep your client happy with the bottom line.

By: Marti Martin Robinson  – Designer/Graphics Case Manager

 

 

 

 

A version of this article first appeared on Law360.com