‘As I’m not settled yet, I don’t need an extra thing to remind me of being refugee.’ Said Tarek, a Syrian refugee coming to Berlin from Porto after escaping the war in Syria. Tarek denied my request for an interview.
By Imad Gebrayel

‘My Stories, My Terms’ is a writing and visualization workshop designed as an initiative to combine the word with a design process enabling a group of enthusiastic refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants to tell their stories on their own terms.

I designed the workshop to place control back into the hands of the refugees/authors to write, design and share their own stories, eliminating any sort of agenda, exploitation or external influence.


In its capital role, Berlin swipes you out of your comfort zone the moment you face its grunge. Even walls in this city refuse to stand passively, where there’s no space for pretentious avant-gardism and definitely no room for a ‘European’ dream the way American dreams are manufactured on a daily basis.

And today, most designers, urban planners, architects, researchers and academics are using Berlin to shake complacency: The amount of projects related to refugees is mind-blowing across all sectors, funding is relatively easy to ensure and exposure is guaranteed for any socially claimed project.


But many of these projects are more interested in funding and self-promotion – everyone wants a slice of that cake –, rather than true commitment to social purpose. The result? Too many refugees feel exploited by the media and the inflating number of academics interviewing them everyday. While media insists on having a strong point of view and uses refugee stories to reinforce it, my project decided to alter that role and free these stories from agendas.

The workshop’s reformulated idea makes a direct use of design and writing techniques in a direct, targeted format rather than a theoretical framework. It includes specific tools for writing, feedback exchange and a basic use of semiotics and visual metaphors to illustrate an idea.

Autonomous experience

The goal was to initiate an autonomous experience in storytelling where the authors are not dependent on media to translate their journey, but instead have complete control over recollections and current challenges they face.

Their stories are tales of endeavor and non-apologetic personal accounts. For the coming period, the work of the participants will be compiled into visual and textual outcomes, while ‘My Stories, My Terms’ helps the visual word reach the widest audience possible.

Imad Gebrayel is a Lebanese designer currently pursuing a master degree at the AKV St. Joost in the Netherlands. His project was made possible by Dérive Berlin, a scholarship awarded by Avans Centre for Art and Design in cooperation with Belius Foundation Berlin. Each year, Dérive Berlin offers 2 outstanding students enrolled in the Bachelor of Communication & Multimedia Design or at the School of Fine Art and Design|St.Joost the opportunity to visit Berlin. WDCD has no part whatsoever in this scholarship or Imad Gebrayel’s project.


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