The digital revolution has prompted a strong and accelerating interest in "visualization"-the use of images, photos, icons, diagrams, charts, or videos to enhance or supplant printed language. Although the law remains predominately focused on the written word, the appeal of images to clarify and persuade suggests that legal visualization will be increasingly explored in research and legal practice in coming years. As Michael D. Murray writes, "socio-epistemic and law and society studies affirm that as modern culture becomes increasingly visual, discourse of every kind must follow suit."
Pioneering visualization studies have been groundbreaking and expansive. Murray provides a helpful overview of many vectors that contribute to the understanding and growing use of visualization: "the scholarship of popular culture, cognitive studies and brain science, data visualization studies, modern argument theory in rhetoric, the rapid development of technology in the production of documents, and technology in the reading and reception of documents." Some studies are more psychological or philosophical, analyzing images distinctly from words. These contributions contrast the cognitive processing, emotional impacts, or sociological implications of pictures with texts, and they help explain the potential benefits and dangers of "visual law" in the digital age. Other studies examine how images might function within traditional legal systems, focusing on how they may be used persuasively within litigation.
Given the extent to which technology is advancing, permitting a range of legal visualizations to enter both legal research and practice, this article explores this evolving field with a focus on the process of visualization development, rather than the product-the image itself. The article contributes to the existing literature on legal visualization in multiple ways: first, it offers guidelines for using images in conjunction with words, rather than in isolation, as much of the cognitive-oriented legal visualization research suggests. Realistically, legal visualization is almost always used in hybrid ways-combinations of words and images to enhance the effectiveness of communication. That seems unlikely to change, given the need for detail and refinement when the law imposes duties on people. Second, we examine the use of images in business documents and in statutes, rather than in advocacy, which is the focus of much of the "visual law" literature mentioned above. Moving away from adversarial settings permits us to illustrate the use of images in a broader range of practical legal applications. It also enables us to analyze the value of visualization as a means to enhance user experience and organizational effectiveness. Finally, we analyze variables surrounding choices and consequences about the process of generating, transmitting, and using images to accompany legal language, which we call "Legal Design." Legal Design goes beyond visualization. While it includes the use of graphic communication tools, it is not limited to document design or visualization. Rather, it merges legal and design thinking. It includes using design methods and tools other than graphics for legal purposes. Legal Design focuses on the way in which visual tools are created and effectively used in a legal transaction or legislative drafting. Examining this dynamic can deepen our understanding of the information conveyed. It can also reveal the potential of Legal Design to create spillover value for businesses or regulatory agencies that employ the images' effectiveness in line with strategic and proactive approaches to lawyering and the law.'
54 American Business Law Journal 347 (2017)