Creating Successful Demonstratives:

The Synergy of Psychology and Art in Litigation

Knowing that people learn through varying methods and that the culmi­nation of their unique experiences assists them in forming their decisions is important. One of the more effective ways to impress informa­tion upon judges and juries is through the use of demonstratives. Applying psychology and artistic principles to visually communicated information is the strongest way to create compelling demonstratives.

The Use of Art as a Communication Tool

Art can tell stories, evoke emotions, hide secrets, persuade people to act, and transcend language bar­riers. Throughout human history, beginning in the days of cavemen grounding pigments and fashion­ing paintbrushes out of a harsh environment to commemorate important events on cave walls, visual art has been a preferred medium for communication. As human societies evolved, the tech­nical execution and layering of information to reinforce the story or message through visual means became more sophisti­cated. Great masters such as Jan Van Eyck, Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio supplied humanity with more than just breathtaking imagery. Their works elevated the understand­ing of a story for their viewers through the use of generally recognized visual symbols. Some symbols, such as those contained in the Mona Lisa, are still being discovered and decoded to this day.

Symbolic art is in landmarks, currency, flags, and every other government insignia. Art is on the packaging of the products we use, the televi­sion shows we watch, the magazines we read, and can even tell us where the bathroom is.

The Psychology of Communication

The discipline of psychology, when used in visuals, is an effective tool in persuasive communication. The psy­chology of learning theory, art theory, and comprehension are important considerations for information designers. Using such techniques to reinforce your message can facilitate audience understanding and even evoke an emotional response.

Attributes to consider when designing informational graphics are color, eye flow and readability. Choices in fonts, spacing, and thickness of letters – also known as typography – can reduce eyestrain, increase viewer attention span, and promote comprehension of presented information. The proper setting of visual ele­ments can reinforce a message and assist the viewer’s eye in following the natural flow of information throughout a demonstrative graphic. The fonts you use, the colors you pick, even the choice of line thickness and style, can attract eye flow to information or reduce that same information’s visual impact. It is best to think of a demonstrative graphic as the whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. The effect of any element is enhanced exponentially when combined with others.

The Application of Information Design in Litigation

The intent of using visu­als is to enhance viewer understanding; they should be relevant to the information being presented. Imagery explains what words fail to impress. Information is everywhere and how it is presented viewers, especially a passive audience such as a jury, can mean the difference between reinforcing your mes­sage and confusing it.

The legal industry has come to realize the value of visual interpretation of the information at the core of their legal cases. Understanding how to effectively create clear demonstratives for judges and juries is now given serious consid­eration as early as the pleadings and motions stage. Great litigation graphics consultants execute the visual arm of your legal arguments and, in that vein, are an extension of the trial team. They are able to analyze case materials and raw information to develop accu­rate and compelling visual aids that further the comprehension of the arguments at issue. Though cases differ in their set of facts and the parties involved, there are two categories of demonstratives that effectively translate to a wide array of legal disputes.

  1. Case-Framing Demonstratives
    These infor­mational graphics give the audience an overall picture of the case and aid in recognizing patterns that would be otherwise impos­sible to discern from examining pieces of information individu­ally. These demonstratives are frames of reference and can take the form of timelines of events, diagrams that explain processes, illustra­tions that provide a generalized view of concrete objects, and graphs depicting increases and decreases.


  1. Fact-Specific Demonstratives
    Another category of demonstrative, heavily uti­lized across most practice areas, is the fact-specific demonstrative. Graphics that focus on a specific piece of evidence, such as call outs, or explains foundational facts or information, such as infor­mational tables and comparison charts, are all fact-specific demonstratives. These graphics best serve to help explain and reinforce specific facts related to your argument.

Example: The ULLICO/Global Crossing Scandal

The two images show charts with similar data sets. Both charts show the Global Crossing’s share price juxtaposed with the ULLICO’s share price. It was alleged that ULLICO officers were able to sell their shares of ULLICO stock based on the value of Global Crossing’s share price from six months ago.

sample1a The graphic on the left was prepared for a congressional hearing on the ULLICO-Global Crossing scandal.


The graphic on the right was created for the ULLICO v. LeBoeuf Lamb legal malpractice case.Ullico-bg

While still staying true to the initial graphic admitted as evidence, the graphics consultant added two additional years to the timeline to include important events and then dramatically modified the overall look and feel to facilitate viewer comprehension. The result is the successful execution of an easy-to-understand; graphically designed demonstrative.


Final Thoughts

The most effective visual demonstratives are those that are able to explain complex subjects and abstract concepts while revealing patterns in data that words alone do not adequately capture.

Start by asking yourself:

Will a demonstrative here add value?

Develop and refine demonstratives to answer three additional questions:</ br>

    1. Will this demonstrative visually and mentally connect with the decision-maker?

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    1. Does this demonstrative efficaciously illustrate the narrative of this case or a specific argument at issue?

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    1. Does the overall design of my demonstrative effectively explain information presented and reinforce the message being portrayed?

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Working through these questions to develop demonstratives will promote the creation of less ambig­uous and more persuasive visuals.

This article is based on the KT Designs’ white paper “The Anatomy of Successful Demonstratives.” To access the whitepaper in its entirety for free, please visit the whitepaper section of our website:

KT Designs is a privately owned company that operates on the ideals of honesty, integrity and transparency. We are experienced in working on cases and projects of all sizes and in most jurisdictions, including internationally. We are devoted to the personal and intellectual growth of our employees and clients, and to facilitating continued learning in our audiences on the most complicated of topics. We consider our clients’ satisfaction and confidentiality above all else.

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