Legal design thinking is the cross-discipline of legal thinking, design thinking, visual thinking, and user experience (UX) design. Legal Design Thinking revolves around developing a deep understanding of the people for whom legal solutions should be designed. Legal Design Thinking frames the problems in human-centric ways, adopting a hands-on approach in experimentation, sketching, prototyping, testing, and trying out solutions (you can read more here).
There is plenty of literature and information about Legal Design Thinking. However, I want to introduce a new concept. I want to introduce the idea of Legal Graphic Design Thinking.
What is Legal Graphic Design Thinking?
Collaboration between designers and lawyers is on the rise. Other than the obvious benefit that a designer brings color into the mostly black and white legal industry, there is so much value in legal content that is accessible, simple, and visually alluring. Ultimately, lawyers should aspire to deliver legal services and content in a way that is useful and engaging to a wider range of people.
Graphic design is the craft of creating visual content to communicate content. Even if graphic designers use interactive software, graphic design still requires a deep understanding of typography, imagery, color, and forms.
Graphic design has been successfully used worldwide for many years in every industry to drive innovation and improve products and services. However, the legal industry has only scratched the surface of the possibilities when it comes to the use of graphic design.
Graphic designers, like lawyers, frame and define the problem, brainstorm ideas, and create a solution. However, for lawyers and graphic designers’ creativity is more than an inborn talent. It is a hard-earned skill that improves with practice.
Laws and the formulation of legal content is, usually, complex and in plain Word documents. I could argue that the lack of images, color, and an engaging structure leads to confusion and frustration from users. However, Legal Graphic Design Thinking can create a bridge between the legal world and ordinary uses of the legal system.
Legal Graphic Design Thinking can make the law more accessible, more usable, and more engaging. Lawyers can use work with graphic designers and create information that is user-friendly and easy to understand. In other words, lawyers could use the skills from graphic designers to simplify legal content.
For example, Dan Roam in Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don’t Work has advocated the use of graphics and charts to better communicate ideas between people. Legal Graphic Design Thinking is not about substituting pictures for words but having additional images that best represent legal information.
One example of Legal Graphic Design Thinking is the use of visual contracts. Visual contracts are an emerging discipline and part of a broader movement to simplify the law in which diagrams, illustrations, flow charts, hierarchies, and other data-visualization tools express contractual terms, relationships, and concepts. For example, Shell started using visual contracts in its marine lubricant sale agreements to avoid lengthy negotiations.
In May 2018, Aurecon became the first company in Australia to introduce visual employment agreements across its entire workforce. Aurecon’s global chief people officer expressed that the thinking behind introducing visual contracts was to avoid the complexities of written agreements. Furthermore, she expressed that if employees can easily understand what they are signing, trust will be built from the beginning of the employment relationship.
Visual contracts are an example of how we should aspire to create a legal system in which legal information is accessible with typography, imagery, color, and forms. Access to justice begins when people truly understand their rights and remedies. Too often, legal content is too complicated for its own good. Those who create legal information (myself included) often lose sight of the original purpose of the legal system: improve the quality of life of its users.
So, how we go about implementing Legal Graphic Design Thinking? Here are a few tips:
- Change the form, keep the legal content.
- Empower customers to interact with the information.
- Implement better interfaces for clients to interact with the legal services and legal information.
- Explore less-text options for communications.
- Take advantage of interactive digital technology to create usable, satisfying communication experiences like MailChimp or Canva.
Legal Graphic Design Thinking is a creative process for innovation in the legal sector. Working together with graphic designers can facilitate lawyers to provide better services, experiences, and products. Legal Graphic Design Thinking could mean creating a website, video, logo, newsletter, or a visual contract. Regardless of the product, there is a lot of value behind the artistry and how you can deliver legal content.