Missing Migrants –

interactive data visualisation

university project

Introduction –

problem & goal

War, violence, political persecution, hunger & poverty are reasons for many people to flee their homeland. The media only ever report on the refugees who have arrived & the problems arising therefrom. With our data visualisation we wanted to look at the topic from a different perspective & 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 & 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 &  implementing a prototype. We decided on the topic of „Missing Migrants“.

Design Process –

brief & quick

data set

Various organisations collected data on missing & 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 & the aspect of the high number of disappeared refugees is missing.

data cleaning

We wanted to look at the topic from a different perspective & 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.

We wanted to retain the aspect of the journey in terms of cartography or geography, without depicting a map from above. This led us to the illustration of a reduced route cross section with the three main sections before, on & after the crossing of the Mediterranean Sea.


Based on this concept we built our data visualisation. First, many different incidents occur in the section off the Mediterranean Sea & the bar indicating the causes of death shows many different & evenly distributed causes. Then, numerous incidents appear on the Mediterranean Sea with a very high number of dead or missing persons & the blue bar, which stands for the cause of death “drowning”, increases abruptly & 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 & 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.

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 &  how many have since gone missing.

Key Learnings –

data visualisations are powerful

Every day, huge amounts of data are collected & 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 & 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 –


Interaction Design

Semester 2

University of Design Schwäbisch Gmünd


Three-dimensional Basics

Winter 2019/20


Prof. Dr. Franklin Hernández-Castro

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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