How can we govern ourselves democratically if we can’t understand the law? How are we supposed to defend our civil rights, combat climate change, or navigate the criminal justice system? There aren’t enough public interest lawyers to go around, and besides, people shouldn’t have to rely on experts to engage with the laws that affect their everyday existence.
The Graphic Advocacy Project envisions an accessible, participatory legal system that promotes substantive equality along all lines of systemic marginalization. We believe that law should be for the people, not just the powerful.
Visualizing Better Advocacy
Our goal is to help social justice advocates communicate as effectively as possible by employing visual tools. So our work is driven by the needs of our clients. A legal service provider cannot represent every potential client: GAP designs self-help materials, incorporating visual aids to increase their impact. An advocacy nonprofit wants to educate its members about an important but esoteric topic: GAP creates a comic, using a visual narrative to make the issue salient. A law school clinic obtains important data through a research project: GAP presents its findings in an interactive infographic.
Removing the middle man
In the game "Telephone," information becomes distorted as it travels from person to person, often becoming unrecognizable by the time it reaches its intended recipient. Similarly, when lawyers have to explain legal concepts to graphic designers who then have to convey those concepts to other non-lawyers, crucial information can get lost in translation.
GAP's graphic advocates are fluent in design and law. Our legal training guides our creative decisions and enables us to work more efficiently with our advocate clients.
When deciding how to price our services, we faced a dilemma: Giving all our work away for free would contribute to the problem of undervaluing creative labor and undermine graphic designers struggling to make a living, but charging market value would be prohibitively expensive for many advocates who could benefit hugely from our services. Our solution? We use a sliding payment scale to make our creative services affordable for even the smallest nonprofits.
Sowing the seeds of Law + Design
In order to sustain our mission of providing affordable, customized visual materials to social justice advocates, we need to cultivate our most important resource: creative lawyers. GAP partners with law schools to provide training and externship opportunities for students interested in legal design.
"With good design, things changed."
-Professor Jim Greiner, Director, A2J Lab @ Harvard
A2J Lab @ Harvard Law School
The A2J Lab at Harvard Law School seeks "to produce rigorous evidence in the fields of access to justice and adjudicatory administration, and to combat the resistance within the U.S. Bench and Bar to rigorous empirical thinking." Among other initiatives, the Lab is home to the Financial Distress Research Project, a multi-year endeavor studying how best to assist individuals with the legal aspects of financial distress.
Although millions of people in the United States face legal issues stemming from financial and credit problems, there is a drastic shortage of pro bono legal services available to help. Individuals are left to repair credit, navigate student loans, negotiate with debtors, and file for and litigate bankruptcy alone. Without legal guidance, many are overwhelmed and unable to resolve their financial problems, resulting in only more legal issues.
To find a solution, the A2J Lab's director, Professor Jim Greiner, decided to conduct a first-of-its-kind empirical study. The study's goal? To find the most efficient way to provide legal aid for those in financial distress who are unable to secure the help of a lawyer. The (hypothesized) answer? Illustrated self-help packets.
This is where GAP comes in. GAP's founder, Hallie Jay Pope, conceived of GAP's mission while working with the Financial Distress Research Program during law school. Hallie brought her design and illustration background to Professor Greiner's project, helping to design and illustrate self-help packets. Informative and succinct, the packets empower individuals to tackle financial legal issues on their own.
GAP and the A2J Lab now work closely together, developing self-help materials that provide individuals with the information they need to navigate the legal system.
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
LDF fights for racial justice using litigation, advocacy, and public education. One of its main priorities is protecting the right to vote. GAP and LDF teamed up to create state-specific illustrated voting guides for the 2016 election.
ACLU of Massachusetts
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts engages in impact litigation, legislative reform, and grassroots advocacy to preserve the civil rights and liberties enumerated by the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights and the U.S. Constitution. Its work touches on a wide range of issues, including police accountability, racial discrimination, and electronic privacy. As a legal fellow, GAP's founder worked with ACLUM advocates to create comics, animations, and illustrations to inform the public about these concerns.