Ben Willers
Graphic Communication



MA Design


I have had so many emails asking about various aspects of my work that I felt I needed to include a section which answers the most common ones. However I hope this won't discourage anyone from getting in touch in the future, I always enjoy reading and replying those who have taken the time to write. Feel free as always to ask or comment directly through other networks such as .

What software and design processes do you use?
To sort the data I use a spreadsheet program, I have Apple Numbers but from what I can tell its exactly the same as Excel. I will hunt for interesting trends and stories, sometime using the built in graph tools to get a general idea of the magnitude of scales. Ideally the data will already be organised somewhat beforehand as this is one of the most important processes in the whole project. I then use a sketch book to help me visualise the best way represent the information, while at the same time creating a series of rough drafts in Illustrator using a small amount of real data to test if it will work. This is always the most time consuming task in any project for me and I sometimes go through several different design concepts. The next stage is to build the visualisation which again is done in Illustrator. Final tasks include selecting the colours, applying the labels and tweaking everything to balance all the elements which make the final piece easier to read, and hopefully make it aesthetically interesting as well.

Are you ever tempted to manipulate the data to make it fit your designs?
There were times on the MA when it was tempting to create some data that didn't exist, after all who else but me would know? In a visualisation of my it bothered me that I was missing 10 nights worth of data from the beginning of October. I estimated the times for those missing days, then updated the chart. It felt so dishonest though and it ruined the integrity of the entire project, so I immediately reverted to the previous version. I have never since even considered doing such things. Sometimes I work with awkward data, but as a designer I thrive on solving the problems this type of work produces. My view is that once you start purposefully misrepresenting the data, you should no longer consider yourself to be an information designer.

How did you collect all that data for the Life in Data project?
Many are surprised at the amount of data I collected about myself while studying for an MA. Looking back I have to say I'm a little surprised myself! In reality though much of it required little effort on my part and the rest simply became part of my lifestyle for a short time. The most time consuming part was undoubtably the food and nutrition intake recording. I started by logging this on paper, but quickly switched to a spreadsheet programme which I would fill out daily and it did a lot of the calculations for me. One sheet was constantly being updated with the names of each food I was eating with the nutritional content copied from the packaging or the internet, then I started a new tab for each day and copied these cells into a timeline to build up my records. The rest was much easier, I wore a pedometer constantly, circled and rated television shows I watched in the TV guide, my Wii Fit already had detailed BMI records going back a couple of years and I have a whole lifetime of bank statements and pay slips stored in box files.

Are you available to produce work or work collaboratively with us?
Absolutely. I currently work for Blue & Green Tomorrow producing infographics and data visualisations for their readers, however I am always keen to work on a variety of other projects. Contact me and let me know how I can help you or your organisation.
  Ben Willers 2012