Humanizing Syrian Refugee Information Design

The Syrian conflict is the worst humanitarian crisis of modern history. But, with that reputation, the information visualizations representing this crisis have been accompanied with a voice that tends to be a more inhumane and neutral one. The representations are often done using graphic languages that are used to display statistical and quantitative information. 

The first installment for this exhibition comes in the form of a sculpture. It uses cards that are stacked in piles embodying the catastrophic number of Syrian casualties. The pile of almost 10,000 cards holds an accurate number of circles which represents the accurate number of deaths that occurred up until the date of this exhibition. On the first side of each card, there are circles, representing 54 of the 470,000 Syrians who died as a result of the Syrian crisis. However, There is one circle on this side of the card that is highlighted in red without a label. On the opposite side of the card, the red circle stands alone, identifying the name of the Syrian it represents. This side of the card contains a more detailed story of the person’s death told through a paragraph that ends mid–sentence, acting as a metaphor for that their lives ended abruptly. The cards are stacked in piles, inviting viewers to come closer and interact with information about this crisis in a way they are not able to when simply viewing it through a screen. The viewers are encouraged to take a card with them. The more people interact with the pile, the more messy it becomes, which is another aim of the installation–a metaphor for the current messy situation. The pile of cards also acts as a miniature representation of a city within Syria. As time passes and more people get involved and interact with it, the city slowly starts to fade away and crumble–one card at a time. 

Alongside the sculpture is a book titled Visualizing the Forgotten. In this book, the history of the Syrian crisis is encapsulated since its ignition. The book sheds light on various elements, like historical factors and political events, involved in this crisis. It also contains interactive visualizations that focus on three journeys of three different refugees. By centering on the point of view of one refuge at a time, the visualizations will be more humanized and more impactful and powerful than any statistical graph or chart. The Syrian crisis is specifically addressed. Ultimately, however, an awareness for the worldwide refugee crisis will evolve by proxy. 

This project humanizes information visualizations by employing individuality, subjectivity, and empathy. This will function as a vehicle to spread awareness about the crisis as a whole, rather than portraying blanket-statement statistics and overall view portrayals, to which we have become numb. 

This project has won the "Otto Neurath Award for Outstanding Social Relevance."