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Prayers to Pablo Escobar

Prayers to Pablo Escobar

Data & experience design project:
a metaphor & analogy between hippos and Pablo Escobar

SCAD Secession 2019 Finalist



About hippos and world-know druglord Pablo Escobar

This project explores a metaphor and analogy between what hippos represent in Africa and what Pablo Escobar has signified for Colombia all these years. The praying cards visualize data related to Escobar's killings, cocaine crops, hippos, and hitmen. The Maria Auxiliatrix prayer was used by Escobar's hitmen before going out to kill. 

For this project we were asked to alter a known truth by using a true or false fact. Colombia was the first thing that came to mind as soon as the assignment was explained. Especially how it is constantly portrayed in TV shows and series to the outsiders. I decided to relate the idea of “known truth” to the idea that foreigners have of Colombia in relation to violence, Pablo Escobar and cocaine. Through mind maps and research I was able to identify Escobar’s hippos as an opportunity to portray Escobars through an analogy and metaphor.

Hippos in Colombia are truly problematic because of their crazy reproduction rate. This problem was mainly caused due to Escobar smuggling 4 of them into his personal zoo, and after they adapted, they started to reproduce at an unhealthy rate. The unsupervised reproduction of Escobar’s hippos endangered Colombia’s ecosystems as they were animals that weren’t part of environment. The hippo’s reproduction rate endangering Colombia is the metaphor itself for what Escobar’s drug cartel was.

For Process Book click here

Video made by Vox Borders that further explain the hippo’s situation in Colombia

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Some of the feedback I received from different users when I tried this first prototype was that the colors were too dark, the data points couldn’t be understood easily and the relationship between hippos and Pablo Escobar’s story was not clear. Inspired by this I redesigned the experience


After multiple trials and iterations with users I decided to change the colors featured in the cards’ frames. The data was made more explicit in the cards itself and the size of the cards was modified in order for them to be taller and wider. For the packaging the concept developed followed the crossing sign that catholics do before praying. For each of the entities a metaphor was developed. In the name of the father, Pablo Escobar. Of the son, his Hacienda known as Tranquilandia, The Holy Spirit, Escobar’s hitmen who were his hands and Amen as the closing statement, the legacy represented by his hippos.

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