Legal design is an emerging discipline at the intersection among law, human-centered design, technology, and behavioral sciences.

In many contexts, the legal system fails to effectively empower individuals to understand how the law applies to them and to be in control of complex legal matters, by fostering better decision-making. An empirical design mind-set has made its entrance into the legal realm with the intention of renovating and ameliorating the interaction between the law and the individual and developing human-centered solutions and innovations. Legal design encompasses information design, product design, service design, organization design, and system design.

For instance, much research has been devoted to smart, user-friendly design of contracts that rely on visual elements to represent legal information in a navigable, comprehensible, and engaging manner. Similarly, user-friendly solutions have been advanced to increase readership and understanding of privacy policies (most notably, in the Usable Privacy Project). Such research is often complemented by empirical evidence drawn from behavioral sciences that considers how biases and heuristics influence human beings’ reasoning and decision-making.

At the University of Luxembourg, Arianna Rossi is investigating how the human-centered methods of legal design can be applied to comply with the transparency obligation set forth by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The research is carried out and coordinated with the University of Bologna and Margaret Hagan, director of the Legal Design Lab of Stanford University.

The research is devoted to investigate how legal design patterns can improve (or worsen) usability and comprehensibility of privacy terms, with a focus on the data protection icons’ pattern explicitly suggested by the regulators. The research attempts to address the concerns about misrepresentation and misinterpretation traditionally associated to visual elements in the law and adopts multidisciplinary, participatory design sprints and empirical user studies to create and evaluate the efficacy of the icons. The Data Protection Icon Set (DaPIS) has been modeled on a computational ontology of data protection currently under development at the University of Bologna and the University of Luxembourg and on the legal XML standard Akoma Ntoso to make the icons machine-readable and semi-automatically retrievable.

Main contributor(s): Arianna Rossi, Monica Palmirani