A user-centric approach to make regulations accessible: here’s the “legal design”


Discovering the regulatory design that focuses on the user to communicate effectively

Our journey into the world of regulations reaches new stages every day, which are essential for those who, like us at Aptus.AI, aim to revolutionize the way humans and machines interact with laws. We have already presented different technological aspects - in particular relating to the concept of machine readable regulations - concerning the way regulators issue documents and also how the recipients commonly use them. Our focus is on financial regulatory compliance, as our product Daitomic is designed for the RegTech market and currently in use in the banking sector. However, the time has come to introduce another essential topic that concerns the regulatory landscape in general, namely the so-called “legal design”. This discipline - or method or technique or mental attitude, according to the different existing positions on it - can be generally defined as the application of design to the legal context in order to make regulations, and in general any legal content, truly accessible for their users. How? Simply by adopting a user-centric approach.

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Essential concepts and goals of legal design, towards an enhanced regulatory accessibility

Our reference text is “Legal design” - which we suggest to those who want to learn more about the subject -, written by Barbara de Muro and Marco Imperiale, therefore we will use the expression legal design to refer to a discipline that combines different types of knowledge and uses certain tools and techniques in order to “design products with a legal content so that they are, at the same time, precise from a technical-legal point of view and understandable, effective and immediately usable from a communicative point of view”. This definition of legal design proposed by the two authors allows us to frame the main objectives of this discipline, namely those of simplifying legal documents without reducing their content nor their completeness and precision. To go further into the subject, it can be said that the purpose of legal design is to create products that, “while responding to specific needs and requirements of the recipients, are able to bring them a concrete and measurable benefit”. Which? The keywords are usability, clarity, inclusiveness. All concepts that need to be declined, from time to time, with respect to the recipients of the specific legal document. In short, the point is to simplify the “communication of legal contents, making them more agile, functional, essential" without however “banalizing, deleting, omitting or indiscriminately reducing, or replacing words with an image”. Certainly not an easy task, but not impossible either. And we at Aptus.AI know this very well, as Daitomic, our RegTech solution, is designed to offer banking compliance professionals precisely these same advantages, which can be summed up with a single expression: regulatory accessibility. It is therefore evident that the point of view favored by this discipline will always be the recipient-user’s one, as the “starting point and arrival point of legal design” with a “distinctly anthropocentric” approach.

Answering legal needs with creativity: the role of the legal designer

Now that we know the objectives of legal design, we can discover the ways in which this discipline aims to achieve them. In a word? Through creativity. As we anticipated a few lines ago, legal design needs multidisciplinary teams and skills related to different fields to be put into practice. Contributions are needed from jurists - who obviously play a central role -, computer scientists, graphic designers, cognitive sciences experts, psychologists, anthropologists, linguists, and so on. All these specialists, within a team that wants to simplify and make legal content accessible, can be defined as “legal designers”. The latter, in fact, are “transdisciplinary” figures, who are able to give a creative but at the same time very competent response to the problem of making the communication of legal contents effective. A kind of creativity that can take various forms and modalities, starting with the simplification and translation of the so-called “legalese”, that is the typical language used in the legal sector and that often presents drifts which are detrimental to clarity, without however guaranteeing any advantage people who produces the legal document or who uses it. But, in addition to the simplification of language, the legal design emphasizes the use of visual elements in law, namely images that facilitate understanding, starting from the observation that our brain is made to learn more quickly and remember better visual elements in respect to texts, as already evidenced by several examples of legal documents dating back to past centuries mentioned by de Muro and Imperiale in their book. Obviously, the so-called visualization of legal concepts and contents must follow certain rules and practices aimed at a communication that simplifies but does not trivializes, that reduces the size but not the content and, above all, that can address the users of the single legal document in a clear and not misunderstanding way. There are many ways to achieve this: from diagrams to icons, from charts to timelines, from infographics to mind and concept maps. And also contents that are even more distant from the traditional legal text, but no less effective, such as videos and drawings. In short, a creative response to legal problems.

The story of Daitomic, or the legal design applied to RegTech

As anticipated at the beginning of this post, at Aptus.AI we are already concretely applying the concepts and methodologies of legal design in the financial regulatory context. In fact, our RegTech platform Daitomic aims to make banking regulations truly accessible to compliance professionals who need to use them on a daily basis and to develop strategies based on the content of the regulatory documents themselves. To achieve this goal, we apply the methodologies of design thinking to the regulatory sector, putting into practice what, as we have mentioned, Barbara de Muro and Marco Imperiale define in their book “legal design thinking” - and which will be the subject of our next blog post. Obviously the starting point was a thorough study of the process currently followed by compliance professionals, but we will talk about this in more detail in the next article. For the moment, we suggest that you try for free how, exploiting the Artificial Intelligence technology underlying Daitomic, the regulatory accessibility pursued by legal design is already available to recipients of legal banking documents. Are you curious? Click below!