About This Project
Despite its name, this project is not about one flag but a multitude. The core of this project is to use the creation of flags as a pretext to raise questions of identity and integration within the european refugee crisis.
My project was born from the will to use product design as a tool for social change in the Calais refugee camp. The aim of this work is to enable the migrants to design flags that would represent the camp. By gathering all these flag submissions, I aimed to generate new channels of communication, emancipated from the mass media and free of prejudice.
The roles I endorsed for this projects are:
– Design Researcher
– Mobile UX Designer
– Mobile UI Designer
This project was my very first digital design experience. I loved it.
I ran on-site research for two months in the Calais refugee camp to meet people who were living/working/volunteering there. I sorted donations in a warehouse, I built 30 shelters in the camp, I volunteered at the women’s centre and I had 3,267 teas with amazing people from all around the world.
The idea of the flag came from the will of building something with the refugees and for the refugees, by giving them back ownership of their situation and raising question about identity
The (Completely) Failed Workshop
In order to create the flag, I decided to start running creative workshops in the women’s centre. After spending a lot of time contacting the centre staff, going on site to meet them, making residents sign up, buying paint, scissors, coloured paper and after publicising the workshop through posters, I was finally ready for the big day.
But to my biggest disappointment… Nobody showed up.
Not even one person.
Going Beyond The Assumptions
By choosing a creative workshop, with paint, coloured paper, glue.. etc. I made a blatant mistake: I did not choose an adapted medium of communication. I think the people that had signed up to the workshop felt eventually that it was a kid’s activity, and that it didn’t concern them.
I had to find a better medium.
I suddenly realised that I had made a huge assumption about the migrants. If someone lives in a refugee camp, you would think at first that their technology usage is close to nothing. Well, it’s completely untrue; the vast majority of migrants own a smartphone, and there is a wifi coverage in the refugee camp, set up by the volunteers. The camp residents use Whatsapp, Viber, Facebook, Messenger… etc.
A smartphone is actually crucial in a migrant’s daily life: it helps them stay in contact with their family, get their homeland news reports and seek official aid wherever they are.
The New Plan
This missed step taught me a lesson and allowed me to reshift my process completely: I was going to create a website where the migrants could design and submit their own flag proposition.
The Flag Creator Website
Because of the situation, I designed the website for mobile usage only. I started by 3 onboarding screens demonstrating the structure of flags, then the user was directly taken to the design steps. It had to be quick, clear and easily understandable by a population composed of more than 30 nationalities.
In order to overcome this language constraint, I tried to use as little copy as possible and got the website translated into English, Arabic, French, Urdu, Kurdish and Pakistani. Phew.
The Submissions and the Vote
This shift in the process showed fantastic results: I went from 0 submissions to 61.
I brought all of these submissions to the weekly community leaders meeting and after one hour of debate about the role of flags, nationalism, identity and more generally, the status of the refugee camp, the leaders decided to chose the submission no.35: the plain white flag.
The choice of the plain white flag as a way to represent the camp is, for me, a beautiful ending to this project. But more importantly, I reached the goals that I had set for this project: creating a meaningful tool that would raise questions about identity and integration in an extremely intricate and tense environment.
Failing at the beginning of the project made me step up in the global understanding of my audience and was extremely beneficial for the rest of the project. Also, it pushed me to create my first ever digital project.