The Socio-Politics of Legal Design and their Epistemic Consequences

04 Jul to 05 Jul

Coordinators: Siddharth Peter de Souza (Tilburg Law School), Joaquín Santuber (University of Potsdam & Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)

Description of the meeting

Our workshop aims to bring together researchers who are working in the field of legal design to interrogate the emergence of vocabularies of the field and unpack their epistemic consequences.

Legal design has emerged in the last decade as an interdisciplinary practice, at the intersection of law and justice, and human-centred design. Legal design research and practice focus on new forms of legal products and service delivery, as well as engaging with legal systems as a whole. However, while a refreshed perspective on design is welcomed, there is often the uncritical pursuit of innovation which has led to its application without examining its socio-political consequences.

Despite the short history of legal design as a discipline, its foundations in human-centred design have been questioned urging for an “expanded practice of inquiry”. Justifying all sorts of innovation in the universal needs of users is even more problematic for human-centred design due to its large adoption in industry and the public sector. This has turned “the human” into a marketable being, often referred to as the user. Where traditionally there was a citizen, now there is a user. Placing a market type of human at the centre for the design activity justify the reproduction of systems by placing the spark or inspiration for new products and services in the human-user-consumer. In the field of law and justice, and in politics and democracy the unquestioned adoption of human-centred design approaches is even more problematic. The adoption of such practices in policy and legal design has served as a trojan horse to impose the market values over those of democracy, justice, and equality.

An alternative has been proposed at the intersection of critical design approaches and socio-legal studies (Perry-Kessaris 2022). Moreover, socio-legal studies has also leveraged design notions and tools such as the “lab” (de Souza & Hahn, 2022). Through these conversations, we are also seeing legal design being part of a longer tradition of studies at the intersection of law and society, which advocate from bridging the gap between law in books and law in action. In this workshop we will critically address issues of epistemic injustice in the designing of legal services and systems, bringing together the tradition of socio-legal studies in dialogue with new concepts and frameworks from critical design approaches.

Both convenors have extensive experience in not just the research of legal design but also in practice. Siddharth de Souza has used legal design to further access to justice in an Indian context through his organization Justice Adda, and Joaquin Santuber has extensively taught and practiced legal design through his organization, Thisislegaldesign. Joaquin’s PhD discusses the role of digital technologies in courts of justice in Chile, from a design research perspective while Siddharth has recently co-authored a graphic workbook to demystify socio-legal methods which aim to use design and play to make the engagements with methods, more accessible.


For more information: 

Workshop Coordination Team

Avenida de la Universidad, 8
Apartado 28
20560 Oñati (Gipuzkoa) - Spain
T: +34 943 78... Ver teléfono