The use of color in trial presentation design is becoming less an aesthetic choice and more a strategy of designed persuasion – to maximize a positive jury response to, and retention of, your argument. More than being emotionally persuasive, research reveals that color acts directly upon the brain’s potential for heightened cognition and retention.
Scientists and psychologists have made two related discoveries in separate lines of investigation: 1.) Neurologists have shown that certain colors cause hormonal mental “arousal”, while; 2.) Cognitive Psychologists have demonstrated that the chemical changes in the brain from mental arousal can improve and increase short term memory retention. Current studies look to prove the logical extension of this 2-part equation: 3.) Therefore use of certain colors can improve and increase memory retention.
“Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.”
– Pablo Picasso
Colors also lead the emotions and perception. By considering color psychology in demonstrative design, you can imbue your client with credibility and trust, send a positive or negative message, compel perceptive focus, assuage a dubious audience, or induce a juror to drop and do 20 push-ups (almost).
It is no accident that Campbell’s soup has used the same four colors on their labels for decades. Our reaction to color is instantaneous and will “color” our perception of any subsequent information we take in.
In the early 1900s, Russian theorists performed color-motivated cognitive perception experiments, where the same photo of a person’s face was presented to different groups of viewers. For each separate audience however, the background color behind the face was different. When asked what the viewers’ impressions of the person were, the interpretations of that exact same face varied markedly from group to group, depending on the associated background color each group saw. But within each group – each seeing the same background color with the face – the viewers’ “perceptions” about the person were more uniform (Lotman, Ann Arbor, Trans 1976).
“I can not pretend to feel impartial about colors. I rejoice with the brilliant ones and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns.”
– Winston Churchill
Though some color effects are universal, colors may also have different meanings in different cultures and to differing age groups and genders, so when considering use of color – consider your jury pool. For example: If one projects a high percentage of female jurors in the pool, one should avoid the use of brown as a background or primary design color – brown is one of the least liked colors by women of any age group. Men prefer the color blue by almost 60%. And a jury with predominantly Southeast Asian heritage may respond differently to a red or yellow than one with a majority of white or Latino jurors.
“Memory is a crazy woman that hoards colored rags and throws away the food.”
– Austin O’Malley
Studies reveal that when images are viewed that use natural colors rather than unfamiliar tones, the images are remembered better (Jesky, 1985). And when one image was presented in two different versions – one in color and one in black & white – the group viewing the color version retained more information and for longer periods of time. Consider that point, next time you need decide between showing a raw, black & white document blow-up vs. creating a color, graphical demonstrative of the same content.
To avoid the risk of the jury cognitively “throwing away the food” that is the substance of your argument, a skillfully crafted visual presentation can help affect that jury to retain and carry your salient points to deliberation with clarity, wrapped in strategically “colored rags”.