missing migrants

interactive data visualization

War, violence, political persecution, hunger and poverty
are reasons for many people to flee their homeland.
Taking the viewer on the journey of refugees along
the Mediterranean route.


problem and goal

War, violence, political persecution, hunger and poverty are reasons for many people to flee their homeland. The media only ever report on the refugees who have arrived and the problems arising therefrom. With our data visualisation we wanted to look at the topic from a different perspective and take the viewer on a journey of refugees along the Mediterranean route.

This project was developed in the 2nd semester as part of the course Three-dimensional Basics in media space at the Univer­sity of Design Schwäbisch Gmünd. The course was supervised by Prof. Dr. Franklin Hernández-Castro, a visiting professor of the partner university Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica. The aim of the course was to create an interactive data visualisation, which was to create information from data and thus an added value. For this purpose, first we should search for a data set on a freely selectable topic, before developing a concept for the presentation of the information and implementing a prototype. We decided on the topic of missing migrants.

design process

data set

Various organisations collected data on missing and deceased refugees around the world, which formed the basis for the data set we used. Of course there are numerous visualisations on the subject, but most of them have an unemotional way of looking at it, the data in the graphs are completely interchangeable and the aspect of the high number of disappeared refugees is missing.


data cleaning

We wanted to look at the topic from a different perspective and take the viewer on a journey of refugees. We cleaned up the initial CSV, which contained data collected worldwide, by limiting it to refugees in Europe. By concentrating on the Mediterranean area we wanted to create a personal reference that would enhance the emotional impact of the data visualisation.

map zoom


Based on this concept we built our data visualisation. First, many different incidents occur in the section of the Mediterranean Sea and the bar indicating the causes of death shows many different and evenly distributed causes. Then, numerous incidents appear on the Mediterranean Sea with a very high number of dead or missing persons and the blue bar, which stands for the cause of death “drowning”, increases abruptly and displaces almost all others. This visualises the tragic role of the Mediterranean Sea in the refugees’ journey. In the last section it becomes clear that comparatively few incidents have occurred in Europe and that the dangerous part of the journey has been completed. The insight transported by the animation is clear: the dangers on the journey change on the way from Africa to Europe.

hover drowned

The relative difference between the columns is transformed into exact figures by the counters at the top right-hand corner of the screen, which should have the effect of making it clear how many people die or disappear without a trace during their escape. The possibility of hovering provides further insight into when an incident occurred, how many people died and how many have since gone missing.

hover column

key learning

data visualizations are powerful

Every day, huge amounts of data are collected and collated, which need to be processed into information. Only through information knowledge can be generated, which ultimately makes wisdom – i.e. implicit knowledge that is difficult for us to formulate – possible. This process requires creativity on the one hand and a certain care to avoid distorting forms of presentation on the other. Furthermore, I realised that statistics alone are not really meaningful, because many aspects only become clear or visible through visualisation. Furthermore, I got to know interactive data visualisation as a tool to direct the attention of viewers to what is to be conveyed.


project information


Three-dimensional Basics
September 2019
Semester 2
HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd


Julian Pohl


contact information

any questions?

let’s get in touch

If you have any questions about the project or want to know more about it, just write me a short message.
I am happy about any suggestions and comments.

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