Visual representations are important, and they can help attorneys convince people when conducting trials, a partner and first-chair trial lawyer at Jones Day said.

Blocks of text and scattered images aren’t ideal due to the ineffectiveness of our peripheral vision, which doesn’t allow us to see and read key details, Kerri L. Ruttenberg told attendees at the American Bar Association conference in Las Vegas Jan. 25.

“We can only read what we’re looking at directly in the center of a field of vision,” she said during her presentation. “Just displaying a busy visual isn’t effectively displaying that information.”

Ruttenberg discouraged attorneys from using graphics as a “crutch,” and instead explained how they could help viewers—including jurors—retain certain information. Studies have shown that two thirds of jurors fall asleep at some point during the trial, she noted.

“If they’re not even hearing the information, clearly it’s not being retained and used when they’re eventually deciding on the case,” Ruttenberg said. She also added that more recent studies show jurors make their decisions based on “three or four salient facts.”

Because there is no way to predict which facts will be most important to those listening, Ruttenberg recommends clear visuals created from important themes in the presentation. In order to maximize retention and increase believability, she recommended eliminating excess text, containing slides to one concept each, and deleting extraneous clipart.

Keeping in mind simple graphic design tips, such as aligning text and images, is also important, Ruttenberg told the audience.

“We’re a very visual society. If you can help your jurors or audience understand something better by giving them a visual memory of it, you stand a much, much better chance of that message not only being understood but also believed and remembered,” she said. “Do I think it makes a difference? Heck yeah.”