Scaling Fences

Visualizing the results of the most extensive and intensive survey ever undertaken of Africans who had migrated to Europe through irregular means.


United Nations Development Programme





My agency was contacted by a designer working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and we were asked to help create an interactive report, visualizing the journeys of thousands of migrants on their way from Africa to Europe.

The study draws on the most extensive and intensive survey ever undertaken of Africans who had migrated to Europe through irregular means from multiple African countries. It follows the Journey to Extremism: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment report published by UNDP in September 2017.

The project had a number of specific requirements, a lot of them rather resource intensive, which meant that optimizing the performance of the site was our top priority.

Several parts of the site consists of scrolling sections with multiple videos – all playing simultaneously, along with content animated using parallax effects. Making sure we were loading and rendering everything at just the right moment was definitely an interesting and challenging project.

The most important part of the site, and by far the most complex, was the map that visualizes all the journeys made by the respondents in the report.

Building this map required us to transform the large amount of data gathered from spreadsheets into a format we could use to render and animate all the paths on the map. To accomplish this, we used a variety of different geocoding libraries and services to extract and normalize all of the information into optimized data structures.

To visualize all of this information while simultaneously maintaining an acceptable frame rate, we needed to split the data structure into a number of groups containing smaller subsets of all the paths taken by the migrants.

Those were then rendered and animated one after another in an infinite loop. After each iteration the previous paths were cleaned up the before moving to the next subset, all without creating any noticeable glitches when switching between two groups of paths.

The result was a highly interactive and visually stimulating experience, with an impact on the reader that simply isn’t possible to achieve in a printed format.