The UNHCR - the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees - works with 35 million displaced people in 126 countries. Their 8,000 person staff collects enormous amounts of data on refugee displacements, and publish it publicly. However, the organization has struggled to find meaningful ways to communicate and visualize their data and reveal the stories behind the numbers. Faced with these challenges, the UNHCR invited Hyperakt to Geneva to conduct workshops, presentations and discussions on data visualization.
Inspired by UNHCR’s work, Hyperakt took on the challenge of creating a compelling narrative from 40 years of their refugee data. Working with technologist Ekene Ijeoma, we created an interactive experience that illuminates where and when refugees emigrate, as well as the complex stories of political, social and economic turmoil behind each displacement. By adding historical context to the shifting patterns of forced migration, we highlight the impact each crisis has on people’s lives.
The Refugee Project was selected for MoMA’s Design and Violence exhibition, where it was written about by the UNHCR’s High Comissioner, António Guterres. It was selected for the Design Museum (London) Designs of the Year 2015 Exhibition. The piece was featured in the New Americans exhibition at the Annenberg Photospace in Los Angeles and in an exhibition called Information+ at Concourse Gallery in Vancouver. Stamen Design featured it as part of the Mapmaker Manifesto installation at the 2014 Istanbul Design Biennial. It was published across the globe in Le Monde, El Pais, Corriere della Sera, designboom, Domus and The Atlantic, who called it “an example of how graphic designers are turning their attention to framing data that stimulates action.” The project was awarded a Gold Medal for Interactive at the 2014 Information is Beautiful Awards and a Silver Medal at the prestigious Malofiej 22 Infographic Awards. The Refugee Project has accrued over 5 million page views since launching in January 2014, and has been shared on Twitter to millions of viewers by global humanitarian organizations like UNHCR, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam International, UN Global Pulse and Amnesty International.