Number 2 of 21 for 21 – On Timelines



It was with amusement that I noticed the “PowerPoint Design” feature pop up as I launched into a recent project in the software. I routinely dismiss sample graphics like the almost lyrical thumbnails that populate the side bar in PowerPoint in favor of custom designs and solutions to our litigation clients’ challenges for myriad reasons, some of which I will discuss in future posts.

Many visual communications specialists who serve the litigation community understand and exploit the benefits of laying main events along a timeline. Whether vertical or horizontal, it is widely accepted that a timeline can highlight the main events in any story in a way that helps a viewer (judge or juror) understand the overall picture.

Timeline design and production for the courtroom offer an opportunity uniquely suited to attorneys preparing for trial presentations. The practice employs age old design principles for reasons trial attorneys may never be able to articulate but from which they certainly have benefitted. I am continually gratified and delighted to apply lessons from design school each time the development of a timeline yields a deeper understanding of the facts. There are many successful approaches to timelines. Here are some trial-tested fundamentals that may help when designing one for your next case:

1. Use alignment between entries with purpose and proportion
2. Build entries as you go
3. Intersperse with evidence
4. Distinguish the current entry with color or highlighting
5. Use related and deliberate colors
6. Avoid default choices (like calibri and blue), they waste opportunities to distinguish between routine communications and well considered nuanced ones

Good design ideas are seldom generated automatically, especially when composing visuals for use in trial by an advocate with command of the facts. Great design ideas come from integrating the detailed events with that attorney’s style and intention.

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