Contract visualization – adding tables, charts, and images to supplement text – offers promising new ways to communicate contracts and improve their clarity and usability. Recent research shows how simple changes can make major improvements and how flowcharts and other non-textual tools can improve productivity and efficiency.
Pioneering since the 1990’s
We started experimenting with visualization in the 1990s. Working with Annika Varjonen of Visual Impact, we found out about the many ways in which images can move people toward a deeper understanding of how they can use contracts and contracting processes for better business outcomes. Since 1996, several Lexpert Contract Workshops have been recorded graphically, with excellent results. Why do visuals work? Annika Varjonen provides the reasons, along with a visualization made for demonstration purposes back in 1997, in The Four Channels of Visualization. The sketch notes made by Annika Varjonen at the workshop session at the ASQ AQC in Philadelphia, PA, on May 5, 1998 made their way to Helena Haapio’s doctoral dissertation.
The results of using visualization in contract education were so encouraging that we moved to developing more visuals for our training materials and other publications. As illustrated in the timeline below, we later moved from visualization about contracts to visualization in contracts.
Visualization can be used to transform contracts from legal rules to user-friendly business tools. Contract visualization can even accelerate a paradigm shift in contract thinking and help implement the new thinking. For more, see Next Generation Contracts: A Paradigm Shift.
From visualization to design
Visuals are one way to simplify contracts and make them more useful and usable. There are many others. For examples, see the Contract Design Pattern Library created by Stefania Passera and Helena Haapio for the WorldCC. This Library, curated by the WorldCC Foundation, is an ongoing collection of contract design patterns – effective, repeatable solutions to common usability and comprehension problems in contracts. Contract design patterns help you organize and communicate your contracts more clearly so that they are read, understood, and acted upon.
AI-powered contract design assistants
We encourage you to explore the potential of AI tools, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, to help you create human-friendly contracts. Here is what we have found ChatGPT can already do:
Always verify the information provided by ChatGPT and other AI-powered tools. Use them as a companion: a tool for brainstorming, idea generation and suggestions, not as a source of expert advice or citations. Don’t enter sensitive or confidential information unless your system is secure. And don’t expect to get your input and prompts right the first time – explore and practice!
Some pioneers have already gone beyond text in legal design. In Central Europe, visualizing legal information has developed into a research field in its own right. For more information, go to Visual Law.