Bringing Vital Public Health Law and Policy Data to the Masses

Temple University Beasley School of Law: Center for Public Health Law Research / 2024 / Environment & Climate Change, Global & Public Health

Hero image of the LawAtlas tool designed by Graphicacy for Temple University's Center for Public Health Law Research.


Graphicacy helped Temple University’s Center for Public Health Law Research revamp scientific legal mapping tool for global usage.

Background and Challenge:

Since 2016, lawyers and academics have relied on the LawAtlas as a primary source of public health law and policy information. Maintained by the Center for Public Health Law Research at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, the one-of-a-kind scientific legal geospatial mapping tool includes vast legal datasets organized by topic (e.g., abortion and e-cigarettes) and jurisdiction (local, national, and international).

Center leadership saw tremendous potential for their robust data to benefit users and use cases beyond the legal sphere. However, expanding LawAtlas’s reach would require a complete user experience. With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Center enlisted Graphicacy to make their flagship tool more accessible and more intuitive to a broader range of audiences.

Opportunity and Solution:

Graphicacy’s mandate was clear, but the challenge was steep: Organize volumes of complex legal data in an interface that was both useful to the legal community and intuitive for government and public health practitioners, advocates, journalists, and the general public.

Graphicacy, with design and engineering partner Eli Holder of 3 is a pattern, collaborated with the Center team to rethink the entire visual ecosystem—starting with a cleaner, interactive data visualization design to replace static tables and volumes of small type.

All told, the Center has more than 200 datasets users can explore, though only a handful of these were available at the time of design. Graphicacy worked with those most representative of the entire data spectrum to develop solutions encompassing all possible chart based and geospatial scenarios and displays, including a US tile map, fixed map, and global map.

Within this new scheme, users have options to view data in tables or map formats, with simple black-and-white tiles representing states and local jurisdictions. They can read current laws and track their evolution into the past. Users can also filter using color-coded variables and create comparisons across maps based on a question-and-answer format.

Data overlap functionality enables users to see all data for a policy, such as abortion, in one visualization.

A montage of three different datasets, with different geographies, displayed on three types of maps used on the LawAtlas tool. The first uses a global map to show "Global Abortion Laws Relating to Self-Managed Abortion." The second uses the US tile map to show the "Electronic Cigarette Laws" dataset, and the third uses a local map to show "Local Eviction Laws."

For global views, a conventional tile map would not be feasible due to a lack of horizontal scrolling space. Graphicacy considered the merits of geographical vs geopolitical displays and ultimately landed on a clean, grid-like global tile arrangement that matched the World Health Organization’s country groupings​​. 

To enhance the tool’s searchability, Graphicacy indexed policy data by keyword, topic, and geography. The addition of new popup windows provide lay users with richer information as well as tips for making the most of LawAtlas and its data. Iterative testing with lawyers and other key audiences shaped the evolution of these features and other refinements.

Project montage image of LawAtlas designed by Graphicacy for Temple University's Center for Public Health Law Research.

“It’s amazing how this changes the game for all users. It lets us talk about data in a way that’s so much more appealing and encourages users to explore and click around. This will be incredibly useful for anyone looking to better understand the public health policy landscape and effect change going forward.”

Bethany Saxon, Director of Communications at the Center for Public Health Law Research

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