The Art of the Chart

A few weeks ago, I read an article much like this one about how "charticles" – short news pieces depicted with charts and other graphics – are all the rage in conventional print media.  I didn’t think much about this trend, however, until I started getting a noticeable increase in traffic as a result of the Social Networking Continuum graphic that I posted a few days ago.  But now, I too realize the power in the art of the chart.

Charts — and their second cousin, the checklist — aren’t just for juries.  You can use a flow chart to show clients how long a divorce proceeding might take, or use a chart to compare the costs and benefits of a trust and a will to estate planning clients.  Use Venn diagrams to depict the overlap – or potential conflict – in two different sets of laws.  Even putting acronyms commonly used in an area of law into a colorful chart rather than a plain list can make clients take notice.

Make your charts colorful and eye-catching, and put them up on your website or distribute them to clients in your office.  If you think clients will have frequent use for the chart or checklist, have it produced on a bookmark or laminated sheet for clients to carry with them. 

Preparing a chart also requires different skills than simply explaining a process verbally or describing it in writing.  You need to think of how to present the material in an elegantly organized manner.  A poorly designed chart will cause confusion rather than bring value – so if you can’t devise a way to compile information in a chart, you are better off not using one. 

So why not make a start on your chart – and if you have a chart or checklist at your website that you’re particularly proud of, send the link to the comments section.