Visually Marketplace Designer Spotlight: Ben Willers

by Visually 2 years ago Filed Under: Conversations

Visually’s Marketplace connects thousands of designers with clients seeking to commission infographics and data visualizations. In the following weeks, we will feature members of our designer community here, on the blog. If you are interested in participating, please contact us at blog[at]visual.ly.


Name: Ben Willers
Age: 28

Visualising data for 2 years
Find him on Visual.ly: b_willers
 

1. Tell us a bit about yourself: how did you get into design, and how long have you been doing it?

I studied graphic design, and then on the MA design program at the University of Lincoln in England, graduating with a distinction in January 2012. It wasn’t until after I begun my postgraduate studies that I began to use data visualization techniques, however after completing about a third of the course I re-submitted my proposal to make this my focus. I created a series of visual representations of my life after meticulously recording my daily activities including walking distances, sleeping, television viewing and bank account activity. These outcomes, as well as a series of logbooks I created to document my time throughout the course can found on my website.

Shortly after submitting my dissertation I won a design competition set by the Information is Beautiful group to visualize the recent financial crisis. This really helped promote myself and my work and I have spent this year working as a freelance designer on a variety of projects.

2. In 7 words or less, describe your style.

Inform through exploration.

3. If you could take a seminar with one designer or artist, dead or living, who would that be? Why?

Getting a chance to speak with Florence Nightingale would be really fascinating, her diagrams depicting deaths throughout the Crimean War were incredibly advanced for the time and her belief that the visual presentation of statistics could change the world was really forward thinking. She would no doubt be keen to see how this practice has developed over the last century and a half, and I’m sure that given a little Mac tuition she would be producing new and revolutionary pieces in no time.

4. What’s your favorite color? Why?

I don’t think I could possibly single out a favorite, certainly not when the visual display of data is concerned anyway. I make selections based on the subject and data involved and usually limited my palette to a few bold colors that I hope will command attention, engage the reader, and help communicate the data in the best possible way.

5. What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in your work and what did you learn from it?

Earlier this year I created a piece to highlight voting patterns between countries in the Eurovision Song Contest over the last decade. I usually avoid using Wikipedia for obvious reasons, however it was much easier to acquire the data from here than it was from the European Broadcasting Union’s website. After completing the graphic I noticed there were some incorrect data entries, and sure enough I traced the problem back to Wikipedia. I spent the next few days manually checking every single entry on the graphic against the official source to ensure all were accurate. The lesson of course is to spend longer preparing the data in the early stages to avoid lengthy delays later on, and only use sources you trust completely.

6. What about your biggest achievement? Tell us about the project you are most proud of in your career so far.

The final piece I created while pursuing my MA degree was a visualization of my life to date, including a retrospective view of my happiness at various stages. This piece has generated more interest than any other visualization I have produced so far, and it was even displayed alongside work from Nicholas Felton and David McCandless at ExpoViz 2012, a public exhibition celebrating data visualization held in Paris back in June. It was fantastic traveling all that way to see my work displayed alongside iconic pieces that actually inspired me to follow this career path not so long ago.

In that same month, another MA Design piece, showing my food consumption and body mass, was featured on the front cover of a special infographic edition of IdN, an international graphic design journal. There’s something really satisfying about seeing your work in print that digital media will never be able to replicate.

7. Who should we feature in this space next?
Paul Butt, I love his style and appreciate the attention to detail in his work.