Number 3 of 21 for 21 – More On Timelines

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Calendars are often overlooked as an effective way to communicate events in time when repetition and volume are key points. The sample above is timely given the recent completion of Super Bowl LV. It was used as part of a graphics strategy that included summing up “fantasy football” correspondence in an employment defense matter alleging wrongful termination. Forensic inspection of the underperforming employee revealed thousands of emails related to participation in a fantasy football team (among other fantasy team sports). Tiny football icons were used to depict the subject matter of the email on the actual calendar day of the email date. Once drafted, it became clear we would have to use multiples to fit everything, so each icon represented ten emails. Using two colors (one for emails sent and a contrasting color for emails received) would better indicate engagement.

Thinking with the end in mind, we envisioned delivering paper copies of the charts in tabloid size by the deadline (the Friday before the Monday hearing start date) would have significant impact. This enabled us to dive deep into the detail of the forensic analysis, resulting in various summary charts by category of non-work-related correspondence and timing at a glance, having the impact that Edward Tufte refers to as “small multiples” in context. It also allowed us to utilize a “tactile” form of communication, practiced less these days for obvious reasons. We look forward to the day when the power of touch can safely return. Holding something in your hands changes the way you understand and internalize its significance. One’s degree of scrutiny and study of that information may not always increase, but likely is always distinct from scrolling and flashing screens of information. Imagining the quiet of the hearing room while the parties studied the charts likely played a part in the case settling after the exchange.

We like to joke “settlement by graphics” when we think of that case, but the lessons continue to inform matters all these years later.

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