February 16, 2012

Don’t Just Display Graphics, Interact With Them

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:

Play_Eyeliam FCC
Effective legal persuasion requires both show and tell.  No one — not jurors, judges, or arbitrators — like presentation that is just a talking head.  We know from our own experience and research that using graphic designers to develop effective demonstrative exhibits is a way to improve comphehension, help you appear more credible than the other side, and make the key points more memorable.  But our research has also shown that it isn’t just the graphics, it is the way you use them that matters. 

We tend to think of graphics as being either static (boards and slides that are shown) or animated (video that is played).  Increasingly, however, technology is encouraging a third way:  interactivity.  The idea is that a graphic should respond to your commands in order to display different ways in different contexts.  It shouldn’t just lay there like a static graphic, or play in a start-to-finish fashion like a video or animation.  The ability to interact is ideally suited for the informative and persuasive needs of litigation.

Since we have just completed the development of an attitudinal scale to measure juror bias against corporations, the Persuasion Strategies Anti-Corporate Bias Scale, we wanted to see if we could use our graphical prowess to develop a simple but accurate way to explain a relatively large amount of data.  The result is an infographic that we’ve included at this link (Flash required) and explained in a brief video below.  Developed by Nick Bouck and Erik Brown and programmed by David Carter, it is an interactive chart that illustrates not only the scale, but what you can do with graphics in court as well.

What is an “Infographic?” 

An infographic — or “information graphic” for those who prefer complete words — provides a visual approach to conveying information or a message.  The increasing popularity of infographics, particularly on social media and the web, emphasizes the novelty and particularly the interactivity of the design.  The best infographics, instead of placing all of the information out there to be “read” in typical linear fashion, incorporate ways of providing information that adapt to what the user wants to see, providing different views in different contexts.

One good example is a timeline.  Traditionally, building a legal timeline means just placing the events in order in a push-pin sequence on a horizontal axis.  Something like this: Timeline bad2

But a better approach is to employ a program like Flash in order to create a timeline that builds in response to your needs.  For example, a single entry could say “Correspondence Continues:  May – June,” and a click on that text would expand that section of the timeline to show exactly what that correspondence was.  If you click on “Planning memorandum, May 13” then you would see the actual memorandum with the key language highlighted.  A good illustration of a detailed Flash timeline can be found here.  Using an interactive timeline like this, you would be able to show just the basics in an overview (for example during opening) and then expand specific areas when you need more detail (for example during witness testimony) or to compare and contrast specific events in order to make more pointed arguments (for example during closing).

Our Infographic Explained

Applying some of these ideas to our own need to explain our Anti-Corporate Bias Scale, we recently developed an interactive chart.  We have two ways to look at the infographic.

Click here for the interactive chart (Flash required):


Or click here for a video showing and explaining its use:

The Lesson on Graphics

In an age in which the average person can create a reasonable-looking graphic using a program as simple as PowerPoint, it becomes more rather than less important to bring in the experienced eye of a graphics professional.  That person will have the experience to separate a good from a bad visual, and ensure that you are making the most of what current technology has to offer.  As you vet ideas for your own trial graphics, make sure that you are considering newer approaches along with the old:

  • Old graphics are static, new graphics are dynamic.
  • Old graphics display all at once, new graphics build based on time and context.
  • Old graphics are displayed, new graphics are worked with.


Other Posts on Litigation Graphics:


Photo Credit:  Top of post:  Eyeliam, Flickr Creative Commons;
In video: Spiritinme, R_sh, Studiofour, Shankbone, Flickr Creative Commons.


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