Refugee Minifigure Poster Project
a collaboration with illustrator Paul Lee
UNHCR/LEGO Refugee Ads
“Spot the Refugee” was first run in Newsweek in 1995 as an advertisement produced by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in collaboration with LEGO.
In 1998, “Spot the Refugee” was reissued with “What’s the Difference, How Does It Feel, & What’s Wrong Here” to make a set of 4 UNHCR advertisements to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The posters were also released with a teachers’ guide, which can be found here.
LEGO Refugee Poster Reboot
One of the most significant global issues of our time is the refugee crisis. War, drought, poverty, violence, religious intolerance, and human-caused global warming have accelerated these large-scale migrations and millions of people have become desperate enough to leave their homes in hopes of a better future.
I’ve been thinking about what I could do to bring awareness to this issue, and how best to recognize their plight and the value of them as people, no matter when or where or why they leave home. The rise in xenophobia and hate crimes in the US has made this an urgent issue that I felt compelled to respond to.
As an educator, I think about the best ways to teach people about the refugee crisis in a meaningful, effective way. I remembered a poster I had on my classroom wall that combined minifigures and a statement about refugees and started to think about how this might be an interesting way to approach educating people about the refugee crisis. Seeing the poster again was what sparked me to want to create an updated version with minifigures representing actual refugees, their stories, and their contributions to society. In my research, I also came across people who may not have been refugees themselves but are advocates who actively support refugees in resettlement and starting new lives.
Designing minifigures to represent these extraordinary people makes it possible for us to see them in a unique way that is approachable to everyone. LEGO has a language all its own that draws people to it, no matter the format or the subject, and it is my hope that creating minifigures of these inspiring people will draw people to their extraordinary refugee stories.