Law can be made more comprehensible if it is made more visual.
This means illustrating cases — putting the human situations back into the legal opinions — creating flowcharts out of rules — and thinking about how we can convert complicated text into clear, digestible, graphic presentations.
I have also been putting together flow charts for clearer conceptions of legal rules — that are not put forward only as text or outlines, but as visual journeys of decisions. I find them useful for studying & responding to test questions.
Here are some examples of law school flowcharts and illustrations I have been working on:
Constitute is an interesting new web-app/design that is all about examining the different constitutions. It lets you choose multiple constitutions to compare against each other, and also filter for certain types of terms and functions that you’re concerned with. You can put multiple documents next to each other, and then click on a certain topic
Hat tip to Helena Haapio for forwarding me this article out of South Africa about comic-book version of contracts that has been created and distributed by a fruit company, for a contract with its farm workers. A lawyer for the company, Clemengold, named Robert de Rooy created a booklet of visuals and narratives to present
CALI has published a coloring book authored by three librarians, Elizabeth Gotauco, Nicole Dyszlewski, and Raquel M. Ortiz, that gives an introductory primer on how to do legal research. Along with essential information, it also provides line drawings for the reader to color in. The PDF version of the book is free online, so you
One of the student fellows at Legal Design Lab has been encoding a whole range of similar legal policies, tagging up which sections of different institutions’ policy documents belong in the same category. This allows for a more comprehensive analysis of the policies, as well as comparisons across documents. The question is, how to take
I attended a design talk where startup and tech companies’ designers were sharing notes about what they’ve learned about what kinds of visual and interaction design best connect with users. One of the designers mentioned that you have to sometimes throw out the “core principles of good design” for certain audiences. He was talking about
In early May, the Legal Design Lab is co-hosting a one day design sprint, with the California Attorney General’s office. The AG is focused on making it easier for normal people to understand how the criminal justice system works, and also to use the power of data to help researchers, journalists, and the public better
During my February trip to Italy to talk about legal technology and improving the usability of courts, one of the points that got raised several times was: “How can we make effective visuals, that let both lay people and legal professionals easily understand: how the legal system and its procedures work how competing legal arguments
Last week I presented at two different panels last week I presented at 2 different panels at the ABA TechShow in Chicago. It was a great chance to meet more lawyers and thought leaders around the future of the legal profession in the US. The first panel I presented that was called Graphic design 101
I found some old sketchbooks of mine, that I had on my internship desk between my 1L and 2L summer. I was working at a law firm in Istanbul, trying to understand the intricacies of Internet and free speech laws and all the competing interests in Turkey of 2011 (it has only gotten more complicated
I had written earlier on this site about Kanan Dhru’s excellent visual law project LawForMe in India, to democratize legal knowledge and education through straightforward, delightful visuals about the law. The LawForMe site is live and full of great visuals. Here is a peek: combining short text explanations, comically-tinged scenarios about legal problems, and colorful,
For Expunge Design Day this past weekend, when we led a participatory design session on what better expungement/sealing-record procedures & tools would be, I created these 3 infographics. They were to help me learn the basics of the (COMPLICATED!) California law, and to convey it to the young people, designers, and developers working at the
Trace My Shadow is an interactive tool from the Tactical Technology Collective that allows a person to see for themselves, in lively ways, what kind of digital traces they are leaving behind as they browse online. It’s an interesting model for helping people have transparency into their own situation, and how they might want to
So many of my design projects are all coming back to the power of visuals to engage people on legal topics & to convey information effectively. Even if it seems that product and service design could be solutions for different challenges, the communication design track (making better visuals and texts) turns out to be the
Here is a legal visual that I had started to create a few years ago during a Legal Design Jam for Wikimedia’s trademark policy. Here I’ve made it more generic — the point isn’t to capture specific policy points in this visual, but rather to draft what a one-page, usable guide of a policy might
Inside Stanford Law School, the Stanford Securities Litigation Analytics project is gathering all kinds of data about securities litigation & then making it visual, interactive, and usable to lawyers and companies. It takes a data-driven approach to how we assess the prospects of a case & what kinds of choices and changes a lawyer or
Yesterday I had the privilege to visit the courtroom of the Honorable Shawna Schwarz in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County. I was there to discuss with a small group about a possible pilot of a Court Messaging Project in some family court hearings. While I was in Judge Schwarz’s chambers, I noticed some
Professor Harry Surden of Univ. of Colorado Law School has published a beta version of a visual Code Explorer tool, to unpack & explore the laws on the books. Instead of paging through or scrolling through legal text — you can open up the tree of sections & sub-sections and see the text on the
As I’ve been reflecting on different patterns and models of Access projects, I’ve realized that we should be investing in a massive Legal Pathways Mapping project. We should be creating consistent (and hopefully also smart, interactive, encoded) maps of all the legal procedures that are amenable to be mapped. The output would be usable, procedural,
When I was in law school, one of the projects that got me into design & tech-based work was the challenge of “How to make online tracking and privacy threats more transparent to Internet users?” This big question was part of a Harvard-Stanford law school class, on ‘Big Challenges of the Internet’ — in which
Inspired by the Mozilla/Aza Raskin’s Privacy Icons project, I’ve been thinking about how we can improve how we communicate legal warnings online. Particularly, I’m thinking of those standard disclaimers & limitations of warranties that legal professionals attach to their websites & their emails. If these consumer-facing warnings are used everywhere, it’s worth thinking of how
Graphic Justice is a UK-based blog and network of academics who are interested in storytelling, visuals and the law. The posts on the group’s site focus mainly on how comic books & graphic narratives explore themes of law & justice. It is less about using visual storytelling to communicate exact legal procedures, rights, or advice.
A quick visual guide I made for very low-barrier, easy ways to make your text communications more usable to average readers. This applies to both hard-copy print-outs, and digital text.
In December, I had the pleasure of meeting Kanan Dhru when she visited the d.school on her trip to the US. I had written about her project Lawtoons when it was in the funding stage earlier this year — she was crowdfunding her plan to make visual stories to explain Indian law to young people.
I’ve been talking with some of my colleagues about how to set up some more deliberate & collaborative groups who are working on human-centered design & law. Part of the problem with the ‘Access to Justice’ movement is how dispersed our work & research is. There have been some groups that have cropped up recently,
Here’s an entire special edition of the journal Law Text Culture devoted to Justice Framed: Law in Comics & Graphic Novels. I’ve linked to an introduction to the volume by Luis Gomez and Ian Dahlman. It explores how law is integrated into visual narratives. Thanks to Kristina Brousalis for pointing me toward it. Here are
Isobel Williams is an artist in the UK who on her site Drawing from an uncomfortable position keeps a collection of gorgeous drawings from the UK Supreme Court. She has the court’s permission to be a drawing-blogger in the Court. Where cameras can’t go, she goes — drawing documentations of cases and culture in the
Law professors Neal Feigenson and Christina Spiesel published the book Law on Display in 2011. They make the argument that visuals are becoming increasingly powerful in legal courtrooms: to frame issues, to persuade jurors, to convey scientific evidence with greater force, and to change how advocates represent clients. Aside from the book, they also maintain
Here’s another example of visual explanations of law. Here it is the 2008 book Bound by Law?: Tales from the Public Domain, with Intellectual Property Law visualized in comic book format, from Duke University Press, authored by Keith Aioki, James Boyle, and Jennifer Jenkins. You can buy it here on Amazon. via Bound By Law: the
Here is a visual I made for the Canadian Bar Association, to illustrate the main takeaways of their new Legal Futures report. And then a version in French as well. It was great to have a small part in the report — it’s full of great insights about the near-future for the legal market &
Law Comics is a Tumblr blog that features a handful of illustrated explainers of law — to start with, patents. These first comics are authored by Julia Powles & illustrated by Ilias Kyriazis. Their description of the general project: Law Comics is a project steered by non-boring lawyers to render iconic legal cases in full-colour
I was excited to see a concept design for a Parking Sign featured in Wired Magazine– that would communicate a legal warning/penalty quite clearly to the people who are living under the regulation. It links back into the d.school class Get Smart, on good legal communication design, that I taught this past Spring at Stanford.
Kanan Dhru of the Research Foundation for Governance: in India (RFGI) think tank reached out to me, sharing her Lawtoons project — as well as a more general initiative to bring legal innovation into Indian legal education & court rooms. Lawtoons is currently being crowdfunded, to create visualizations of law for young people. It is
Here’s a visual for non-lawyers to enter information for a professional to later use in their legal case, and also to understand if they are eligible for DACA. It is a product of the North Carolina Immigrant Rights Project.
Here is a handout I made for my communication design students, about different visual structures they can use to communicate complex information. I made it particularly for lawyers, as part of my legal design toolbox.
For the Get Smart class I’m teaching at Stanford d.school, about information design for legal & financial notices, I’ve put together The Good Notice Project. I’m collecting examples of how notice is given — whether through signs, text, or more visceral experiences. The site’s collection of examples will be useful to the students in the
Through the Program for Legal Tech & Design, I’ve launched a new project — The Visual Law Library. We started populating the site with drawings, charts, cartoons, graphs, timelines, videos, and other media that can make specific parts of the law easier to understand. Our goal is to build a usable & beautiful collection of
At the request of my sister, I have been tinkering with simple diagram templates for law students, lawyers & clerks to structure their legal analysis, and anchor a writing they have to make, evaluating parties claims in light of the law. My first go is a Legal Claim Map — just a simple table template.
This is a new concept I’m playing around with, in the area of Legal Visualizations: Legal Visual Mnemonics. I see all these memorization tools for legal rules with concepts converted into letters, then packaged into words, and finally packaged up into memorable phrases. What if an image could be part of this packaging of the
For part of the Fwd.us DREAMer Hackathon the past 2 days in Mountain View, I started prototyping some uber-simple infograhpics of (often crazy) immigration narratives. I wanted to show the amount of time waiting, the amount of time in limbo, and the failpoints. Even if you come in legally, happily, optimistically, you can end up
This originally went up at the Stanford d.school’s Whiteboard site, now reposted here: If you are interested in hosting your own Legal Design Jam — getting people together to work on how to redesign the look and interactions of a legal document — reach out to Stefania at stefania.passera (at) aalto.fi
Brendan Conley alerted me to a small library of visuals he has built up since he studied for the Bar a few years ago. He has made flowcharts & diagrams to help other students get to the heart of the Bar exam topics more quickly & visually. For example, here is one diagram he made
We’ve had OVERWHELMING response to our Legal Design Jam outreach for next Friday at Stanford’s d.school. So we are adding on a Day 2, on October 12th, from 12-6pm — this time up in San Francisco at The Embassy Network. RSVP here, it’s open to all kinds of people interested in building better, more visual
Here’s a short, unnarrated overview of legal tech tools from Legal Services NTAP that lawyers & others could use to organize their projects, do better research, work on the road, take notes, use visuals, create media, analyze data, and use all the tech they already have in better ways. 50 Tech Tips 2013 EJC from
Another legal flowchart/mindmap — this time for situations when states have made laws that are in conflict with other laws. I sketched it out while studying for the Bar. Have fun!
Will you be in the Bay Area on Friday October 11th? Do you want to come redesign a legal document — make it lively, graphic, & visual? Apply to join our Legal Design Jam at Stanford’s design school! The formal invitation is here, a PDF you are welcome to redistribute. And apply here with this
I drew this while studying for the Bar, to help remember possible defenses. Hope it can help you too!
It seems lots of User Experience & Information designers have tried to tackle tax forms. These are all hypothetical versions (it seems the IRS is massively against any new updates). They are inspiring in how they simplify complexities and simply look more beautiful. Considering all of these examples, I would love to see a ‘Skins’
In 2004, Karen Schriver, a designer and professor, took on a Milwaukee journalist’s challenge to make the 1040 IRS tax form more user-friendly. She tackled the redesign with information design principles, using composition and visual tools, to guide the user through. Unfortunately, the link to her redesign is broken — but her writing about the
I’ve been tunnel-vision studying for the California Bar, and in the process, I’ve been trying to hunt down graphics & visuals that will give me a break from text-madness of Bar Prep. I have chanced across one-pagers like this on California Community Property. This is a one-page headache. Or heart attack? This is what is
I am collecting examples of how Notice is given to people in public, to comply with legal requirements to provide them warnings, information, and notification that something is happening to them.
As requested by a visitor, another evidence flowchart — this time a more general Checklist as a Flowchart.
I’ve been enjoying the site Typography for Lawyers from Matthew Butterick. He makes some effective arguments as to why Typography is more than just font choice — why it is a design choice that will affect how a lawyer’s audience will react to the text itself. Why does typography matter? Typography matters because it helps
I dug up a report that the FTC had published a few years back on how they have evolved good information design for financial institutions to give privacy & legal notices to their lay customers. The document is a rich set of patterns, examples, and procedural insights into how to design legal (and law-relevant, rights-relevant)
A quick sketch of a concept for wearable law… Of course fictional now, but only slightly tongue-in-cheek…
I got a note from Helena Haapio in Finland today — there is a group of legal professionals & others active with the organization Lexpert who are working to innovate on preventative and visual law. They are design-oriented & creative, trying to make law communicated more accessibly. Annika Varjonen provides the text below, and lively
Another flowchart that I made for my Evidence final last week, and just colored in…
Prints of this drawing available here for purchase! I am playing with different ways to study for my Finals. I decided to try out flowcharts. My hypothesis: the act of putting together a flowchart is itself one of the best ways to learn an area of law. Especially with a rule-based doctrinal class like Evidence,
Ravel Law (above, presenting at Reinvent Law in Silicon Valley last Friday) is a start-up that grew out of Stanford Law, that is building visual tools for legal research. Cases’ importance to an issue would make them larger or smaller, cites would be visual links, relationships would be color coded. Another great visual possibility would
The Immigration Legal Resource Center in San Francisco provides comic book explanations of common immigration scams and how to avoid them.
some Intellectual Property Basics, Terry Fisher at ILaw
A new social network has come out of Florida, with mom Natasha Dedis at its helm, to let users choose what ads are shown on their network, and to keep their information from being sold by the network to advertisers. From Andrew Couts at Digital Media: Unthink attempts to tackle the exploitation problem in a
Arvind Narayanan used the example of LiveJournal to scout out some features which could be built into social networks to allow greater control over sharing and privacy. First: Everyone But X. “This is an example of a whole class of access control primitives that make no sense from the traditional computer science security perspective. If
A very instructive & fun cartoon flow chart on illegal immigration. More legal information design, for clarity & playfulness! From Terry Colon, published in Reason Magazine.
California Common Sense is a new Palo Alto-based non-profit that is trying to gather together all of the data about the state’s government, and then process it into visualizations that are clear, interactive & revealing. The basic mission: make the government more transparent, starting with California