Visualizing Path of Freedom
As an Iranian graphic designer, I have always wanted to help make freedom accessible globally. I came a long way from my country to learn how to be effective as a graphic designer in this area. In some countries, people have more limitations in many aspects. I can consider my country one of those. I did not feel free. On August 16, 2019, I said goodbye to the people closest to my heart my loved ones, family, and friends. My reason for leaving was to find both freedoms for myself and in hopes of sharing them with others.
In this project, I aim to gather information about different kinds of freedom limitations by interviewing people and visualizing their stories. I wanted to find other directions and see how people have tried to solve them through their stories. These categories can be body, sex, expression, religion, speech, choice, etc. Also, I want to share resources and information connected to stories to help people who want to go the same path and find their freedom. I chose to employ map-based visualization to easily archive and illustrate their experiences while acting as an interactive medium to help people find valuable resources from their journey’s locations. The next step for this project is to make a platform for others to share similar type journeys, which can be used to inspire others and find useful information.
The first step was to know about the fundamentals of cartography. I have found some articles about the relationship between design and cartography, but still, I needed to learn more about the rules and criteria to design a map-based project. Besides, applying a social topic to this format could bring many challenges to me. I decided to read resources involving other subjects such as feminism to mapmaking. ​​​​​​​
To design an interactive map, I need to learn some software. I had a meeting with an expert in GIS and mapmaking. He told me how I could use software and how can I connect data from different resources. It was an ongoing process for me. Every weekend I had a meeting with him to learn how I can manage my data and visualize them.
The next step was deciding what kinds of data I was going to visualize. Before I decided, I collected many samples and see how others collect data and made them interactive on the map. Also, this process helped me to broaden my horizon towards the topic of freedom and look at that from different angles.
To start my interactive freedom map, I needed data related to freedom. I used the Unicef website’s data. Inquiry data gave me the chance to narrow them. I chose to start with child marriage and I narrow that to women age 18 in 2019. QGIS helped me to connect my numerical data to my countries’ border map. In this stage, I had all my data connected together. I exported the file from QGIS, and I connected them again with the style of the map I wanted on Mapbox studio.
I had a chance to have the help of my peers in a feedback session. I designed an activity on Google Slides and I shared a link to an archive full of interactive maps examples.  I asked my peers to share with me the best map they chose related to each category on the Google Slides. In my feedback session, I received amazing ideas about the purpose of the project from my peers. After that, I made a mind map to manage the ideas. I came up with the idea of having people’s stories who left their countries because of a lack of freedom in different aspects.
I visualized my journey from Iran to the US as the first story on this project. I shared many of the resources that helped me during my process of applying to the universities in the US. I also shared the mistakes I had on my journey. I used Adobe XD to prototype this interactive map. Also, I interviewed Reza in Australia. He left Iran because he did not have freedom in his beliefs. I visualized his story as a next step.
I prototype this map using Adobe XD. I designed it on 3 different pages. The first page gives the users the option to click on the country they want. it takes them to the map of the country. There, they can click on the stories and go to the next page. The next page is the interactive story with links and resources. To add the next story, I interviewed Reza in Australia before. I started by mapping his story on paper. I had two meetings with him in order to get resources and also more details for the map. After, I used Adobe Illustrator to visualize his story in the same style as the first one.

The next step was working on the user interface for this project. My goal was to use the design as simple and easy to understand. This project's audiences will be people from different backgrounds. I wanted the project to be self-explanatory. During the process of designing this project, I had some user testing with my peers at the University of Florida, Reza the first interviewee in Australia, and some of my Iranian friends here in the US. I made some changes based on their feedback and experience and finalized this project in an iterative process. 
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