Cartoon Contracts and the Proactive Visualization of Law

86 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2020 Last revised: 3 Aug 2020

See all articles by Michael D. Murray

Michael D. Murray

University of Kentucky, J. David Rosenberg College of Law

Date Written: July 31, 2020


The goal of this Article is to apply the lens of visual legal rhetoric and visual literacy to the current visualization movement in Proactive Law and Legal Design in their efforts to promote visual, non-verbal communication in contracts through cartoon, comic book, and highly pictorial legal instruments. The lens will be applied to evaluate and critique five aspects of proactive visual legal instruments:

• Immediate Visual Context,
• Immediate Verbal Context,
• Visual Cultural Context,
• Mise en Scène and Arrangement, and
• Visual Rhetoric, Ethics and Professionalism

This Article will analyze whether highly visual contracts and legal instruments fulfill the potential for greater access to and understanding of contract terms particularly with regard to audiences whose language skills and cultural experience might make the comprehension and acceptance of purely verbal contracts more difficult. Although legal communication in general and contracts in particular have been dominated by text for centuries, the contemporary study of visual communication in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, data visualization and rhetorical topics of arrangement, and contemporary visual legal rhetoric demands attention to the proactive approach to law and its call for increased visualization in legal communication. When visuals can overcome barriers in communication that words alone cannot, contracts and other legal instruments can be made more universal in their application, interpretation, performance, and enforcement.

Keywords: Visual rhetoric, visual legal rhetoric, visualization, proactive visualization, visualization in contracts, cartoon contracts, comic book contracts, visual literacy, multimodal, multimodality, proactive, Proactive Law, visualization, Legal Design

JEL Classification: K1, K3, K10, K12, K19, K30

Suggested Citation

Murray, Michael D., Cartoon Contracts and the Proactive Visualization of Law (July 31, 2020). University of Massachusetts Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Michael D. Murray (Contact Author)

University of Kentucky, J. David Rosenberg College of Law ( email )

620 S. Limestone Street
Lexington, KY 40506-0048
United States
219-299-9777 (Phone)
859-323-1061 (Fax)


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