A Taste of Home

IDEO's Designs On challenge is a speculative design exercise to imagine solutions to big, complex questions such as Citizenship.

IDEO's Designs On Challenge is a speculative design exercise, which invites teams across the global IDEO community to imagine solutions to big, complex questions. This year, the main theme was Citizenship.

At IDEO.org, we chose to focus our design exercise on the feeling of citizenship and identity for refugees and migrants—putting ourselves in the shoes of the 60 million people around the world who’ve been displaced by conflict, and are making new lives for themselves in unfamiliar countries.

This was a perfect opportunity for us to apply our creative problem-solving skills to an issue we’ve encountered firsthand through our work. “Over the years, our teams have worked in refugee camps around the world with partners like the American Refugee Committee, UNHCR, and We Love Reading,” says Design Director Adam Reineck, who co-leads our San Francisco studio. “And, when we travel through major transfer airports such as Addis Ababa Bole, we often fly alongside refugees on their way to resettlement. These experiences have helped us develop empathy for the uncertainty many refugees face along their journeys.”

Refugees are subject to some of the strictest background checks and security screenings before they are allowed to enter the United States, so we wanted to design a thoughtful and welcoming arrival experience.

“Creative industries have an important role to dream big, and to articulate and visualize our shared future”

Adam Reineck

We asked ourselves: How might we make Syrian refugees feel more at home on arrival in the US? What if we could transform their first experience of America from intimidating to comforting, by greeting them in their new home with familiarity? “The US is currently starkly divided over whether we should welcome diversity into our country or be afraid of it. We were inspired by this tension to look at a specific moment of the refugee experience,” Adam says.

Our final design concept, A Taste of Home, is a welcome box for Syrian refugees arriving in the United States filled with familiar spices and ingredients from home. As these refugees embark towards a new future, we greet them the home-cooked flavors of their past. Each of the ingredients in the box is labeled in Arabic as well as English, and contains the addresses of local markets where new arrivals can find these essentials. Like many refugee resettlement services, we imagine the campaign could be sponsored by American citizens who are looking for ways to show their support for refugees coming to rebuild their lives in America.


A Taste of Home was created by IDEO.org designers as part of an internal creative exercise, Designs On - Citizenship, in which IDEO designers around the world explored three expressions of citizenship on our daily lives—identity, engagement, and community.

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