Beyond Borders
Mapping the distribution of a name on land and sea.

The brief, set out by the RSA Student Design Awards, was to 'Create a campaign, service, product or environment designed to promote inter-cultural understanding.' 

Looking at a name

Names, like borders, change over time. They move across borders and borders move across them. I created a service by which users can visit a website, input a forename and a data-map will be generated of all the birth records with that name, plotted across the globe. 

The example map I created uses the name Rebecca, a fairly common Western name. Using genealogical sites and online public record databases, I plotted the density of each birth record across the world. The process of collating this data produced a surprising number of miscellaneous births that were recorded 'At Sea'. It seemed curious to consider what nations or states these 'Rebecca's' belonged to. Mostly, it seemed they took the nationality of their parents. But for arguments sake, what if they were stateless people? This provided the focus of this project: how is culture created? How is a nation formed? What makes a nation or a culture?

The map was then plotted with these figures; red circles show recorded births on land, blue icons show those at sea and others highlights recorded origins of the name (Jewish Torah) and places where Rebeccas were born that are no longer identified as nations/states.

Creating culture

On the reverse of the map, an activity is provided for the user to complete. Based on the information provided on the map, they need to design and consider several factors which could make up this hypothetical nation/culture of those born 'at sea'.  Through careful wording, the word 'culture' is almost never used, in the hopes of the pushing the user to consider the social implications of a national identity or national culture. 

One activity asks the user to 'Draw the flag' for this new nation. A neutral visual composition tries not to distract the user from using anything they can see on the page as a visual cue. The 'identity' of the project rests on the colour of blue used for the 'At Sea' icon and the small circle hovering over a line is the only repeated motif throughout to reinforce this.


A1 format (841cm x 594cm)
Cyclus Offset 100gsm Newsprint
Multi-colour Screenprint