Monday, July 19, 2010

Visual Communication: Less is more

"Less is more", a phrase from the 1855 poem "Andrea del Sarto" by Robert Browning. Andrea del Sarto was a Renaissance painter who was regarded highly by his contemporaries because of his technical skill. The phrase is commonly used in our modern age to suggest that simplicity is often a better teacher then something which is complicated. In my career I have often been presented with scenarios where this very phrase has been extremely useful. Not only in toning down a requested client exhibit but also in taking a step back for a wider glance at my own work.

I recently attended a mediation in a case which the plaintiff had very severe injuries from an accident. The case team which represented the plaintiff arrived with some enlargement boards to show the panel. The exhibits were crafted professionally and it was very apparent that a medical illustrator somewhere worked hard on them. However, they were riddled with information and a real assault on the optic nerves.

Now the argument could be made that the case team was watching costs, wanted to limit the amount of boards (use presentation software then!), or needed all those voluminous injury facts in one place. Those possible explanations aside a trial exhibit should always strive to use text sparingly.  An exhibit crowded with text and photos unless built upon, e.g. a slideshow will risk over loading your audience. In a trial it’s nearly impossible (especially after the lunch break) to focus the jury on graphics which are laden with information.

The internet is available to all our jurors and most certainly used by them in some fashion. It has become the information paradigm for cramming as much data into one place as possible. Just consider the home page of your favorite browser and how difficult it can be to sometimes navigate. I consider myself consumed by technology and still remain ticked off when my browser is “updated” and all the menu options change. The jurors do not have the benefit of repeatedly looking at all trial exhibits hours on end as I do a web homepage.

Trial graphics should be designed to convey key messages to the jury rather then every message. This way the jury is spending energy focusing on the important issues of the case. Less is more also applies to over saturation of presentation slides and graphics by the jury. The minimalist strategy will assist the jurors with learning about the case and make your exhibits meaningful and full of impact. Using pictures and graphics to more succinctly tell a story to your audience is the art of visual communication.

In closing use the less is more method to de-clutter your trial graphics. My approach is to make the most important area of the exhibit large and very easy to identify. Any supporting information should be a secondary focus for the jury as to not immediately divert their attention. The goal should be to provide the jury with visual tools to better understand the testimony they are hearing. Simplicity in design will help make your trial graphics much more compelling and accentuate the facts of your case.


Less is more. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
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