Blog: Legal design and fair data

Is it possible to increase acceptance for data collection with the use of design language? Could the term “Legal design” be the key to shaping a more transparent use of policies and laws – and make it less boring?

Legal design is, as the term suggests, a combination of law and design. The basic idea is that law should not be an afterthought in UX, it should be one of the most important aspects when designing products. That might sound a bit dull, but that is not the point – implementation of legal design is a way to make legal aspects less boring and eventually making policies and laws more transparent and engaging.

One great example of legal design is one that is of huge interest to Urban ICT Arena. Sidewalk Labs in Toronto has designed a number of icons to be used in physical environments, to inform users of what kind of data is being collected in the area.

This set of icons is one possible solution to making data collection more transparent. The idea is that the black hexagons to the left symbolize what the purpose of the data collection is, while the blue and yellow ones to the left indicate what the data source is. The blue hexagons imply that the data is not identifiable, meaning that it can not be linked to one person, while the yellow ones are identifiable. This would be accompanied by a QR-code with more information and a company logo. These symbols are meant to be combined and be clearly visible e.g. on signs on the sidewalk.

This is an open source project, and is available on GitHub.

This is something we at Urban ICT Arena are following closely, as some of the equipment in our testbed collects data from people. We need to be transparent with this, and informing people of data collection is a way of gaining trust. The black hexagons are, in some aspects, the most important ones – we need to show that the data we collect actually has a purpose. If we can show that there is a clear purpose, then the acceptance for public data collection would hopefully increase.

Legal design was also a point of discussion two weeks ago in a Sjyst data (Fair data) project meeting, where Urban ICT Arena is taking part. The project focuses on how GDPR is implemented in relation to end-user integrity, while enabling the ability to work with business development based on user data. To read more about the Sjyst data project, head over to: or our project website.

If you want more information about legal design, there is more (and arguably better) information available at

–Klas Mattsson, Communication Manager, Urban ICT Arena

Article written by Klas Mattsson