Words of Welcome

How can design help Syrian refugees instantly speaking German? The design system ‘Words of Welcome’ makes it possible! Created by DDB Group Germany, based in Berlin.


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 system that turns every aid donation into a German language lesson for refugees. 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 relabelled product refugees add a new German word to their vocabulary.


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 platform caters for the first 28 words every refugee needs to learn so they can communicate their basic needs. Even more words on their way to be produced. An online platform enables people to help spread the word to other citizens, brands and corporations to attract new sponsors.

By Kristina de Verdier On 3 January, 2017