Words of Welcome

Derrick Lin


Creative Agency: DDB Berlin & MediaMonks Amsterdam
Project Type: Project for a good cause
Client: Berliner Stadtmission
Location: Germany
Packaging Contents: Basic Daily Needs
Packaging Substrate / Materials: Box Tape
Printing Process: Flexography

Germany has welcomed over one million refugees displaced by the conflict in Syria. Asylum seekers face new challenges in Germany: the majority of Syrian refugees cannot understand the German or English and are unable to read the Roman alphabet. This language barrier makes communication between asylum seekers and caregivers extremely difficult. The German government states that integration and basic communication are essential in providing meaningful support.

Words of Welcome is a design concept that turns every aid donation into a German language lesson. Together with language experts, we developed a phonetic system that combines German language and the Arabic script. We created phonetic transcriptions for the names of the most essential items and created a new label for these products. By reading these labels aloud in Arabic, refugees can instantly pronounce the word in perfect German. With every relabeled product refugees add a new German word to their vocabulary.

To achieve our goal of helping to bridge the communication gap we had to keep costs and logistics to a minimum while ensuring that our impact was substantial. The idea needed to help Syrians learn the German language but also needed to be easily implemented by volunteers in crowded and often chaotic camps. We focused on the first 28 words every refugee should learn in German; the names of the essential items they need every day. We then created a design system to help learn these words and applied them directly to the items as a replacement label. With every aid product they received they were able to learn the word and subsequently ask for this item in fluent German.

In collaboration with multiple refugee shelters, we selected the most essential products that serve the basic needs of the refugees. Next, we developed a phonetic system together with language experts to create phonetic transcriptions for the names of these items. To support as many people as possible, we created these transcriptions in three languages: Arabic, Farsi and Urdu.

By printing the transcriptions on a simple roll of box tape we made it easy for volunteers and refugees to repackage the donations on site. The tape uses 7 different colours representing different product categories – helping to differentiate food, sanitary, medical and baby products. The Words of Welcome platform caters for the first 28 words every refugee needs to learn so they can communicate their basic needs: Sanitary towels, Toothpaste, Plasters ( Band Aids ), Batteries, Water….

An online platform enables people to help spread the word to other citizens, brands and corporations to attract new sponsors.

What’s Unique?
Thanks to the phonetic transcriptions on the packaging, Syrian refugees in Germany can instantly communicate their basic needs in German.