What is a Contract Design and What Are the Benefits of Having One in Place

contract design Jan 26, 2023

If you're in business, you know that contracts are a part of everyday life. From leasing office space to hiring an employee, nearly every transaction is governed by some type of contract. But while contracts are an essential part of doing business, they can also be complex and time-consuming to create, process and understand.

That's why many legal experts are now advocating for a new approach to contract design, one that takes into account the needs of busy business people. By streamlining the contract creation process and making the output more user-friendly, this new approach has the potential to save businesses time and money. In today's fast-paced business world, that's an essential advantage.

As we say in Design, Form always follows function - This is a principle of design associated with late 19th and early 20th century which means that functionality always prevails over beauty. Applied to a contract, this means that the design should foster the functionality of the contract, that is from the business perspective to establish the foundation of a flourishing business relationship while getting some legal protection. This is why the way a contract looks can be just as important as what's actually inside. Here are some things to keep in mind when you're designing your next contract. 

1. Good design can make contracts easier to understand and use.

Design isn't just about making things look pretty. Good design can also make complex legal information easy to understand and use. This is especially important for contracts, which are often full of legal jargon and rather confusing and really long clauses. By using visuals, plain language, and a well-designed layout, you can help make your contracts more user-friendly. And by including icons and other visuals, they can also help highlight the most important information. Good design can play a vital role in making contracts easier to understand and use. 

2. How to create a contract design that works for you and your client

Crafting a contract using the contract design methodology can feel a lot like creating a masterpiece: you must ensure all the pieces fit together in perfect harmony. Visuals are your palette; use consistent visuals throughout the document to strike a cohesive tone. Balance images with information hierarchy to create a modern, visually engaging layout. Select fonts that read easily and add visuals where they can aid understanding. Finally, use modern legal writing techniques to make sure your meaning is clear and unambiguous. When chosen wisely, these elements will ensure the contract resonates with both you and your client.

But contract design is not just about the creation of visuals or a good layout. It's first and most about understanding the needs, wants, and expectations of the parties involved. When using a purely legal perspective, these needs are often translated into technical words and organized in clauses with a long block of text in black and white. Using the contract design methodology, it becomes possible to not just refine the understanding of the parties' goals, objectives, and contexts, but also becomes easier to have a significant impact on how successful or unsuccessful the contractual relationship may be.

Another benefit of doing this research before creating visuals is that it serves as an opportunity to gain greater clarity about what their desired outcomes are when engaging in contractual agreements and what are the areas of confusion and possibly misunderstanding. This knowledge can then be used to construct contracts that meet those needs using elements of design, while still being legally binding and compliant with all applicable laws and regulations. 

3. The different elements that should be included in a contract design

When it comes to contract designs, it's not just a case of "read the fine print" anymore - these days, there's a plethora of elements that could be included. Tone of voice is key in providing an extra layer of personability and clarity, while making sure all legal information is included remains essential. Visuals can also give contracts a more appealing look, while branding gives lawyers an opportunity to make a lasting impression on clients. Ultimately, by thoughtfully crafting these elements together into one well-rounded document, you can foster the expected behaviors associated with any given agreement.

4. Use typography, layout, and visuals to improve the legibility and readability of your contracts.

If you work with contracts, then you know how important it is to make sure that they are legible. After all, a contract is only as good as its ability to be understood by all parties involved. Fortunately, there are a number of tools that you can use to improve the legibility of your contracts using this methodology. For instance, at Legal Creatives, we teach information hierarchy, using visual aid, font pairing as well as branding and color contrasting. Many tools can be used to achieve these; Canva offers a wide range of templates that can be customized to fit your needs. If you're working with MS office, you can use Powerpoint and if you're on a Mac, you can use Keynote to create beautiful and easy-to-read documents. By taking advantage of these tools, you can ensure that your contracts are clear and concise, making them more likely to stand up in court if necessary.

Readability is a design principle that refers to the ease with which a reader can understand the content of a piece of writing. In order to ensure readability, working on the visual appearance is good not enough. You also need to work on the language, ensuring the accessibility of the words used and validating with readability tools. Additionally, it is important to test your design with users to ensure that they can actually find and understand the information you want them to see. To achieve that, user tests are a great way to validate the effectiveness of your design. By conducting user tests, you can identify potential problems with your design and make changes to improve comprehension. 

5. Contract design should be simple, clear, and concise.

Contracts are a critical part of any business relationship, yet they are often neglected, undervalued, and misunderstood. Part of the problem is that contract design is often seen as a dry, technical exercise with little room for creativity or innovation. However, LegaL Design offers a new approach that puts users first and emphasizes clarity and simplicity. By taking into account the needs of all parties involved, Legal Design can help to create contracts that are fair and easy to understand. As a result, businesses can build stronger relationships with their partners and avoid costly disputes. So why not give Legal Design a try? It could be the simplest way to improve your contracts and provide valuable and tangible value to your customers.

It can also be an opportunity to establish a mutually beneficial, fair, just, and transparent arrangement. Make sure both parties understand what is expected - whether that means explicitly stating expectations with visuals and clarifying the language used. That was the topic for our 2022 Contract Design challenge. The Contract design is a challenge hosted every year by Legal Creatives for its members, with the goal of combining both the necessity of legal accuracy and the importance of user experience. The primary goal of this Contract Design was to redesign a privacy statement that is not only legally enforceable, but also fair and transparent, and easy to process and understand. With patience and flexibility, it's possible to arrive at a contract design that you and your clients feel happy with!

6. Next Steps.

If you want to make sure that all your agreements are crystal clear, a contract design is the way to go. At Legal Creatives, we have a set of templates and of tools that we give to the professionals learning on the platform along with the courses, so they can use them to save some precious time and maximize outcomes, even with 0 design skills.  

Provided you have a structured methodology and the right tools, contract design doesn't have to be difficult. But it will require a bit more time and attention, especially if it's your first time. Remember, there are several things we mentioned in this article that you'll need to keep in mind. And if you want to get a live walk-through of the entire process, then take the next step!

πŸ‘‰ Go to legalcreatives.com/now to be part of the school for the transformation of legal services! If you're not already using a contract design, now is the time to start. There are many benefits to having a contract design in place, including protecting your clients' business interests and ensuring that both parties are on the same page. Don't miss out!