Look and feel of justice: designs for the courts of the future


We generally do not think in terms of UX design, user interfaces, look and feel when we think of courts, procedures or the justice system more broadly. Lawyers focus on legal code and rules and do not bother about developing user-friendly interfaces for the justice system.

What if we would? What could we learn from giants like Google, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.? Things like “do one thing well”, “build for yourself first”, “don’t assume you have the answers”, “prepare to scale”, “put your customers first”, etc. We could start by focusing on how the legal system can build on actual human behaviour, intuition and preferences. 

A little bit of UX design for our courts…

HiiL explored this together with Platform GRAS. Last year, I first developed a pilot project which yielded some inspiring results, including this “magic robe” designed by Lambert Kamps.

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 13.15.47

It can be worn in four different manners giving the judge four completely different looks. Starting point for this was the observation that in fact judges do many different things during trial, picking up many different roles.

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 13.17.09

After this pilot, together with Gabriel de Graauw, Sandra Grabs and my colleague at HiiL Laura Kistemaker, I developed the assignment for designing the courts of the future. It was part of our HiiL Trend Report Trialogue that found three strategies implicit to most courts:

  1. Courts as an instance of last resort: courts as a place where people can go if all else has failed.
  2. Courts to provide legal clarity: courts as a place that solely focuses on legal questions.
  3. Court to solve problems: courts as a place where all interventions needed to solve the (legal) problems of people come together.

Three interdisciplinary teams (combining architects, interior designers, graphic designers, urban planners, cartoonists, lawyers) each focused on one of these strategies and developed a rich collection of designs. The teams presented them during our Innovating Justice Forum last December in The Hague. It was very inspiring to see how the thoughts and tools of all these different worlds inspired the over 100 top notch justice sector professionals during the forum. To see how “these concrete visualisations of justice really helped thinking about abstract concepts of justice and the future of courts”.

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 13.14.30

The designs were published as part of our Trend Report but we decided that this journey should not end here. Hence, during the coming month (4, 18 and 25 March), we bring together a diverse group of people in our Justice Innovation Lab. The design teams are joined by urban planners of the city of The Hague (that sees itself as the international city of Justice and Peace and thus should have a leading role in courts design innovation), the heads of facilities of the Dutch judiciary, people from the government buildings agency that is in charge of the courts, and court professionals who would have to work in these court designs. The goal is to see how we can make court design innovation happen.

As I said, a little bit of UX designs for courts. They could surely use it.


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