Jury Duty is Bad Enough

Jury Duty is Bad Enough

As an initial act of marrying civic engagement with design, the Citizen Designers took a stab at re-envisioning the Jury Summons form.

Even the most ardent supporter of the Constitutional right to a trial before a jury of one’s peers is apt to get that sad, sinking feeling upon discovering a jury duty summons in his or her mailbox. Setting aside real-life considerations like putting life on hold, missing work, and losing income—unless you want to count $40/day as income—the look of the jury summons adds an unnecessarily cruel dimension to civic duty. Poorly designed with every square inch plastered with tiny text, it resembles a dud lottery ticket devoid of any jackpot. The design brief must have been "Task: INTIMIDATE," accomplished through official-looking seals and multiple ominous threats describing what will happen if you don’t comply. A recent improvement is the addition of a map (always a welcome feature), but it’s badly printed, and the type is too small. Meanwhile, the most important information on the summons is the hardest to find: What am I supposed to do? Where do I go, and what time should I show up? What blanks do I fill in? What if I can’t make it—how do I postpone jury duty?

The whole form seems designed to frustrate people and cause them to miss, or at the very least resent their jury service.

Why can’t a jury summons work as well as train and airline tickets? These instructional communications display loads of text and numbers in very small spaces. Well-designed tickets manage potential chaos by providing an underlying structure for text and important numbers. Tickets usually aren’t beautiful, but they make it easy to figure out, at a glance, what is expected and when.

With this kind of clarity in mind, here’s our take on how to get jurors to court on time.

1. Highlight
Feature and isolate the dates and times that a juror is requested to appear, as well as the areas of the form that should be filled in.

2. Simplify
Simplify the design of the form to read correctly when it is opened flat. People have to gaze at the entire four panels at once, and the current design is overwhelming. 

3. Standardize
Use no more than 2 typefaces for the entire form to eliminate visual clutter.

4. Consult
Involve citizens in the redesign process by observing them using and decoding the current summons. Insights into how to make a better form can also come from the citizens themselves. 

Maybe with a few simple moves to create a simpler user-friendly jury summons, citizens will be just a little less irritated by the process, a little more willing to serve, and a little more respectful of their government.