Portraits of refugees-turned-coders are hidden in the homepages of eBay, Accenture and more

The self-proclaimed “geeky” Behind the Source campaign by 72andSunny Amsterdam champions graduates of HackYourFuture with images of them constructed in major websites’ source code.

12 February 2020

Looking to champion the graduates of HackYourFuture, a not-for-profit coding school for refugees, in a way that resonated with its participants, agency 72andSunny Amsterdam has hidden portraits of them in the back-ends of the homepages of major companies such as eBay and Accenture. The campaign, called Behind the Source, features seven portraits built in code that are available for anyone to see if they know where to look – by clicking “view page source”.

It’s not as sneaky as it might sound, however, as the companies are complicit – in fact, the graduates now work as web developers at the companies taking part. The campaign is celebrating their success, in a self-proclaimed “geeky” way that hopes to reframe discourse around refugees and the contribution they bring to the countries they move to, while highlighting how learning code can help to change people’s lives.

Designer and creative at 72andSunny Amsterdam Guillaume Roukhomovsky tells It’s Nice That the portraits are “a tribute to ‘easter eggs’, these artworks made of code characters that developers sometimes hide in their code (in case somebody suddenly decides to take a look).” To make the portraits, the creative team took photos of the graduates, then ran the images through an algorithm that reconstructed them using letters, numbers and punctuation marks. “This way, we could simply copy and paste them in the source code of all these websites, turning code into art,” he says.

“Using only code characters to design everything wasn't just a creative restriction we made up,” continues Roukhomovsky. “It was also a way for us to show the HackYourFuture graduates while making sure no one would be able to recognise them, allowing us to ensure the anonymity sometimes required by their political refugee status, and the safety of their family left behind.”


72andSunny: Behind the Source

One of the portraits about which they are allowed to share details is that of Sarea Al Kebaky, HackYourFuture’s first student, who studied computer science in Damascus before the Syrian war broke out. While living in a refugee camp in Amsterdam, he built an online platform for underprivileged citizens in need of support and services. Al Kebaky is now a front-end developer at Amsterdam-based cybersecurity company Zivver.

The HackYourFuture programme has so far helped 120 people in the Netherlands and more than 200 globally to find a job as a developer. In the Netherlands, over 85 per cent of HackYourFuture’s graduates found and retained a high-quality job as a developer. As well as teaching students web development skills, HackYourFuture also provides guidance with their CVs and interview training to help them find jobs with its partner companies.

“These are real people, with real stories,” comments HackYourFuture’s Wouter Kleijn. “But how do you communicate these in such a way that goes beyond the average feel-good campaign? How do you evade victimisation and stigmatisation when the subjects are refugees, a concept burdened by stereotypes? With Behind the Source, [72andSunny has] shown what advertising, if done right, can do for a world with a little bit more equity and justice.”

You can see the campaign in action on the partner companies’ website here: eBay, Marktplaats, Accenture (also here) Zivver, BackBase and Exact.

Gallery72andSunny: Behind the Source

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72andSunny: Behind the Source

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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