Beyond Clip Art, Part 2: Design Rule of Thumb: Style

In this 3-part series, using a 2-dimensional graphic from an intellectual property case as an example, Guy Grogan, Senior Trial Consulting Advisor at IMS, has been describing 3 Graphic Design Rules. In Part 2, we examine Design Rule of Thumb: STYLE

“Looking good and dressing well is a necessity. Having a purpose in life is not.”

Oscar Wilde

In the context of this article, I would like to revise Mr. Wilde’s offbeat remark to read, “For a trial graphic, looking good, dressing well, and having a purpose are all equally necessary.” Of course the concept of style in regard to courtroom displays is quite different than GQ magazine’s concept. A stylish courtroom graphic is one that catches the attention of the jury, holds it, and induces its members to engage in careful thought processes.

The Second Design Rule of Thumb: Style

When we discuss style with our clients, we define the specific “look and feel” of the visual tools. For example, we sometimes loosely characterize the graphics as being “realistic and technical” or, at the other end of the spectrum, “iconic or abstracted.” The following graphics, show, respectively, examples of these terms:

When we talk about style amongst ourselves here at IMS, we are sometimes referring to whether our design ideas will serve to optimize attorneys’ courtroom messages. Our discussions of style also refer to whether a graphic presentation (link to trial graphic page) appears cohesive and consistent. When we pay attention to style, we create an impression of preparedness, and thus, we enhance the credibility of presenting attorneys.

Sample Infographic

When it came time for us to decide upon a style for the graphics in our intellectual property case, we had to consider a lot of information. So how did we consciously choose the style we used in our jelly bean example? As mentioned, the products at issue in the infringement case happened to be children’s educational toys. (Readers who, like me, grew up in the 80s may appreciate the fact that the Speak and Spell™ was prior art in this case.) In our slide presentations, we could not take photos of the actual products that were the subject matter of our case because many of them were quite fragile and old. In fact, some of these products no longer existed, and any images of them that had been captured in the past were in the form of low-resolution photos of poor quality.

We knew, however, because many of the infringement issues in the case centered on the physical planes and shapes of the games’ housings and the distances between them, we had to create realistic illustrations of the products at issue in this case. We, thus, made certain our depictions of the products possessed a tactile and dimensional quality that allowed jurors to see the planar differences, as shown below. These dimensional graphics also allowed us the greatest amount of flexibility since the images could be adjusted throughout the presentation to show different angles, points of contact, etc. Here are some examples:

Sample Infographic

To maintain consistency, we used the same style, or “look and feel,” for all our graphics for the case. And that is why, in the first sample graphic, images that approximated realistic hands, a brown bag, and jelly beans were used. These images were skillfully rendered to draw the jurors in, command their attention, and enhance their comprehension of an important case issue. A more crude illustration might have distracted them and interfered with overall case messaging.

Earlier in the series, we examined SIMPLICITY in Part 1. Learn more about CONTRAST as a design rule of thumb in Part 3.