Building a Site to Combat Slavery

How many slaves are working for you?

It might be uncouth dinner party conversation, but it’s a big question San Francisco’s MUH-TAY-ZIK | HOF-FER agency is asking. MTZHF’s Slavery Footprint website and companion Made in a Free World app—created with nonprofit group Call + Response and digital production company Unit9—made waves when they were first released a month ago. (This week a tweaked version of the website went live, and an updated version of the free app is in the iTunes and Android app stores today.)

The point of the Slavery Footprint website is to make consumers aware of the 27 million enslaved people in the world today—people who make first-world * lifestyles possible. We’re not talking about just the stereotypical sneaker sweatshop—they want to shed light on supply-chain slavery. Who picked that cotton? Who mined those minerals? “Everybody says, ‘If I lived 150 years ago, I would’ve been against slavery,’” says John Matejczyk, the agency’s founder/creative director. “I say, ‘Well, now’s your chance.’”

Call + Response received a $200,000 grant from the State Department for the project and went to MTZHF. “Justin Dillon [of Call + Response] came to the agency with reams of economic data,” Matejczyk says. “The concept was to do a slavery footprint calculator and then an app to help combat [slavery] by spreading awareness.” He says the project, which took more than six months to complete, was “one of the most challenging things we’d ever done.”

The concept still had to be ironed out. “The way we mapped it out as a creative agency was, how do we collect input from people? Then how do we process that information? How do we give that information back in a meaningful matter?” Matejczyk says. “What if I told you your carbon footprint was 830? You have no context for that.” The breakthrough moment was when they asked, “How many slaves work for you?” That number makes you understand that people are directly connected to how you live your lifestyle.

MTZHF got spreadsheets from Call + Response and started running calculations, and throughout the process, producer Kelli Bratvold worked closely with Call + Response and Unit9 to make sure the algorithms worked. MTZHF sent Photoshop comps to Unit9 to build out the front end and back end. Matejczyk says they knew they wanted the site to be as rich as a Flash experience, so HTML5 was the obvious solution. But working with the technology was a bit tougher than they expected.

But when the site first went live in September, they had upwards of 50,000 hits in the first hour. And the site promptly crashed. “[HTML5] is built for the future,” Matejczyk says. “It’s really in its infancy—it’s buggy and not super stable. We weren’t prepared for the traffic [Slavery Footprint] got, so we had to move it to a more capable server environment.”

After the launch, some folks from the State Department called, asking Bratvold to walk them through taking the survey. They couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working. “And then it turned out they were using Internet Explorer 7,” Matejczyk says. MTZHF and Unit9 had created a degraded version, but even that wouldn’t run on IE7.

The site looks sweet on more modern browsers, luckily. You start by entering basic data about yourself, then you answer 10 big questions about your lifestyle and the things you own. Along the way, you get information about how slavery supports production of the materials used in everyday items. The algorithms the agency worked on for months compute a final score for you, and you get multiple calls for action: You can sign up and compare your score, share it with friends on Facebook and Twitter, send a letter or donate money to the cause.

The companion app takes the experiment even more social. Users can use the Made in a Free World app to check in at a store and a brand. “So if you’re looking at tools at Sears, you can check in at the store and the specific brand,” Matejczyk says. “We built 1,000 Facebook pages, each one is the Slavery Footprint Facebook page for the brand. So in your social network, the brands will see their names pop up in the slavery conversation. You can also send a note to the brands to ask them to examine their supply chains. Until people say, this is how we’re making our consumer decisions, the companies won’t listen.”

“We’d like to get to the point where Made in a Free World is a tag you look for, like LEED certified on buildings,” Matejczyk says. The point of the project isn’t to be anti-consumer—it’s to raise awareness about your consumption and how it affects the world around you. “We’re not out there after the brands with pitchforks. We’re pro-consumer,” Matejczyk says. “You have any idea how many people would be out of work if global commerce came to a stop?”

* Or developed world lifestyles, if you reject the Three Worlds theory.

Made in a Free World / Credits


  • Executive Creative Director: John Matejczyk
  • Creative Director: Diko Daghlian
  • Executive Producer: Michelle Spear
  • Producer: Kelli Bratvold
  • Copywriters: Melissa Blaser, Aaron Sanchez, Mike Galucci, John Matejczyk
  • Art Directors: Omid Rashidi, Diko Daghlian
  • Account Manger: Kacine Kromrey

Slavery Footprint / Call + Response

  • Founder, CEO: Justin Dillon
  • Director of Integration: Adam Klein
  • Chief Operating Officer: Joshua Krammes
  • Special Projects: Jessica Orelles

Digital Production / UNIT 9

  • Interactive Director: Robert Bader
  • Producer: Mel Di Prinzio
  • Executive Producer: Emmanuel Saccoccini
  • Lead Developer: Todd Moore
  • Lead Designer: Luciano Foglio
  • Designer: Elena Lombardi
  • Animators: Maki Yoshikura, Benz Anwat Vongtanee
  • Tehcnical Director: Gilles Boisselet
  • Technical Leads: Maciej Zasada, Todd Moore
  • Developers: Christian Bianchini, Grzegorz Kedzierski
  • Backend Developer: Tomasz Brunarski
  • Project Manager: Elly Miller

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5 thoughts on “Building a Site to Combat Slavery

  1. Pingback: HOW Magazine Blog | Behind The Design Of Slavery Footprint

  2. Tori

    You mention different ways of using slavery, however when clicking on this post, I was hoping that finally someone addressed the daily slavery for designers worldwide, that happens on so called ‘contest’ and spec sites, such as Crowdspring or 99Designs where oftentimes over 500 people submit designs for logos, websites and products, hoping to win a measly price, maybe a client for further jobs, however most of them go unpaid.
    So my suggestion, please include a section that asks if someone used a contest or other spec promoting company to get a logo, website or packaging designed.
    Also I do plant some of my own food, so maybe also include a section where you can deduct that!

  3. Pingback: How Many Slaves Work For You? | Women Who Stand/ Baltimore

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