POST 4: Identifying and collecting a design example

by Jessica Avelina Horo

The crisis is real.

More than 900,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe by sea so far this year (Al Jazeera, 2015)

There are 60 million displaced persons in the world, another stateless child is born every 10 minutes, and three million people have no access to water, food, housing, work, education, and are caught in legal limbo.  The crisis has inspired many designers to design solutions for refugees and the issue itself. I am a design student myself, and I am  really impressed by how designers around the world are gathering their ideas and skills to help both refugees and people. The refugee crisis has become an increasingly important topic for architects and designers as the situation has worsened over the past few years.

When I was trying to find any designers or design studio who work in an emergent practice context related to the issue of refugees, I found that there are so many innovative and creative designs that could improve refugee’s life condition, for example through service, data visualisation design and informative app.  Browsing through all the designs, there is a project that really leaves a mark in my heart. A project by a woman who fled war-torn Syria  that has released an unofficial flag design for the very first team of ten refugees competing in the Rio Olympics, called The Refugee Nation. The 2016 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad and commonly known as Rio 2016, was a major international multi-sport event held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 5 August to 21 August 2016. I didn’t really know how important a flag was until I watched the video when the athletes saw the flags for the first time. The refugees athlete couldn’t hold their feelings as they are touched by the flag. Athletes in Olympic are proud competing against athletes from other countries by bringing their countries’ names, they bring big responsibilities. However, refugees don’t have the opportunities to have a place to call home. “By giving these athletes a sense of national team, a flag and an anthem to call their own, we’re sending a powerful message to all the refugees in the world,” said a spokesperson from Amnesty International. “We’re saying that every human being has the right to have a place to call home.”


The Refugee Nation’s flag designed by Yara Said (dezeen magazine, 2016)
(dezeen magazine, 2016)

The flags itself really reminds me the spirit of refugees as it used black and orange to represent the colour of life jackets worn by refugees when making dangerous sea crossings. “Black and orange is a symbol of solidarity for all those who crossed the sea in search of a new country,” said Yara Said. “I myself wore one, which is why I so identify with these colours and these people”. The flag design is accompanied by a proposed anthem for the team, composed by Istanbul-based Syrian refugee and composer Moutaz Arian. Both were released with the intention of raising awareness about the rights of refugees. The collective has since launched a petition asking the International Olympic Committee to allow refugee Olympians to carry the flag while attending Olympic events. Although the refugee team will continue to compete under the Olympic flag during Rio, Refugee Nation hopes the flag will become part of the team’s identity for future games. I am impressed by how a single fabric for the flag could help the crisis. A single idea from Yara Said may not solve the whole issue, but it is indeed improve the quality of refugees’ life. It doesn’t use any complex technologies or researches, but the flag has given the refugees an identity, which they don’t have.


Image Reference

Al Jazeera, 2015, More than 900,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe by sea so far this year, viewed 20 August 2016, <;.

dezeen magazine, 2016, The Refugee Nation’s flag designed by Yara Said, viewed 21 August 2016, <;.


Syrian refugee artist designs lifejacket-inspired flag for refugee Olympians – Olympics 2016, 9 News, viewed 20 August 2016, <;.


Ask Izzy: Helping the Homeless find their way

Post 4 by Alice Stollery

Disruptive media is a design studio based in Melbourne that collaborates with community-focused organisations such as not-for-profits and community services, to tackle social issues across a number of different sectors. They recently teamed up with Infoxchange, a not-for-profit social enterprise specialising in creative technological solutions for social change. Disruptive Media and Infoxchange collaborated to create the app Ask Izzy, a health, welfare and community services directory that bridges the gap between support services and those affected by or at risk of homelessness. It makes these services more accessible “empowering people to take control, easily find location-based services, and get the support they need” (Disruptive Media). The app was launched in January of this year and its success was evident within the first month, with over 31,000 people using it to access essential services. Not only does Ask Izzy act as an essential tool in providing shelter and support to the homeless, but it will also inform government choices about future investments through the anonymous data collected from the app and website. This data will enable them to determine the demand for particular services.

Disruptive media worked on naming and branding the app, while Infoxchange focused on the app’s development along side Google, REA Group and News corp. The project was a result of a Google Grant received by Infoxchange and stemmed from a directory of homelessness that they had already created called ‘service seeker’. Ask Izzy is essentially a rebranding and repositioning of this directory, using insights gained from research, making it more accessible and putting it in the hands of those in need.

To achieve this, the above organisations worked closely together with people experiencing homelessness and those working to provide support to them, to understand the issues they face on a daily basis. This project falls within an emergent practice context as it is a form of service design. The issue they discovered, this disconnect between the homeless and service providers, came out of a number of ethnographic research methods conducted by the organisations. The foundation of their design strategy was to have a comprehensive understanding of the issues faced by people experiencing homelessness. They conducted these ethnographic studies to both identify the issue of accessibility of services and to gain critical insights that directly informed their design decisions.

The workshops they held, found that avoiding common stereotypes was an important consideration within the branding. Stereotyping is a recurring theme throughout my research and it is interesting to see how it has also played an important role within a design context. The workshops highlighted the ease at which people can find themselves homeless. The fact that homelessness can affect anyone, meant that the name and branding of the app needed to appeal to a wide audience, including those who may not fit into the stereotypical view of homelessness, or interestingly, those who do not consider themselves homeless. Had the branding been directly associated with homeless services, those who do not consider themselves homeless, such as couch surfers, would be less likely to use the app, hindering them from accessing essential support services due to stigma. As a result, research identified that the name should rather be friendly and approachable. Thus, ‘Ask Izzy’ was chosen, as it rids the app, and users, of the stigma associated with the label ‘homeless’.

Through my initial research in the mainstream media, (although not included in my first blog post), I noticed a disconnect between those affected by homelessness and the services designed to help them. I thought it would be interesting to look into why this disconnect occurs, whether it is a conscious choice not to use the services or an inability to access them. Throughout my secondary research into scholarly articles I began to understand the role technology plays in the lives of the homeless and I was surprised to learn that 95% of homeless people own a mobile handset. So it’s really interesting to see how this design studio have uncovered these insights through researching the issue, connecting the two to create a technological solution to the problem. It was thought-provoking to learn through Disruptive Media’s research, that a number of homeless people do not use these services as they do not consider themselves homeless. I was not aware of this and had not considered framing the issue in this way. I would be interested in further investigating how services are being designed for people who fall within this category. Perhaps reframing how we approach those who do not consider themselves homeless could work as a preventative measure or early intervention to decrease the numbers of those who find themselves with no where left to go.


Ask Izzy. 2016, Ask Izzy, viewed 22 August 2016,<>.

Design 100. 2016, Ask Izzy: The A to Z Directory of Homeless Help, Design 100, viewed 22 August 2016,<>.

Disruptive Media. 2016, Ask Izzy: The A to Z Directory of Homeless Help, Disruptive Media, viewed 22 August 2016,<>.

Gillet, C. 2016, Ask Izzy App connects homeless to food, shelter and health services, Herald Sun, viewed 22 August 2016,<>.

Infoxchange. 2016, Homeless Help, Infoxchange, viewed 22 August 2016,<>.

Millar, S. 2016, Ask Izzy – New site to help the homeless, Real Estate, viewed 22 August 2016, <>.