Icons used systematically within a document to signal content about a particular theme, or content requiring a higher level of attention.
Important information may be missed if it is embedded in a lengthy paragraph.
Information about a particular theme may be scattered throughout a document, making it hard for a reader to grasp the full list of obligations, prohibitions, rights or requirements that apply to them.
Use a system of icons where a document needs to be used by multiple audiences looking for different categories of information, which may be scattered across several clauses and documents. For example, an icon system can be used to flag clauses in a contract which place obligations about staffing, reporting, providing documentation, or obtaining the approval from the other party.
An icon system is also useful where you want to create links across the document (but cannot reorganise it) or across multiple documents (e.g. a highly modularized contract.)
A system of icons can be used to flag particular themes, making it possible to scan the document and quickly find related clauses. In particular, it may be used to flag obligations and requirements which, if not acted upon, may lead to potential problems (e.g. penalties, non-compliance, non-performance, delays…)
To be most effective, a system of icons should cover just a handful of key concepts: too many icons are hard for readers to recognize and memorize.
© 2019 Rob Waller.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
In this set of General Terms and Conditions, the clauses relating to practical actions are flagged with a defined range of small icons, which highlight that action is required (e.g. keeping records, notify the other party, or seeking approval from the other party)
© Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands BV. Used with permission.
Designer: Rob Waller
Have you used an icon system in your contracts? You can contribute to the Library by sharing an example.
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