Obsessive Personal Timeline: Merel Brouns

Curator: Rafael Esquer
date: May 1, 2012
Categories: Book & Magazine Design, Information Design
Tags: data visualization, infographics, obsessive
The designer’s Personal Timeline

I have to face my demons: I am an obsessive person. I clean absolutely everything on my desk before starting a new project. I shelve my books rigidly according to my own idiosyncratic system. I organize my fonts into endlessly parsed categories of style. Perhaps it’s not such unusual behavior for a designer. But it’s why I’m writing about Merel Brouns’s Personal Timeline. It’s a project that appeals to my own weird compulsions.

Merel documented almost everything she did from the first day through the last day of 2011. The result? A book that weighs nearly 10 pounds, but one that is beautifully and ingeniously designed.

Using many colored tapes, markers, scissors and other craft materials, Merel created an elaborate accordion-like book that expands to more than 300 feet long when fully opened. It displays page upon page of colorful infographics that represent her activities by day and by night. Each page represents one day, each centimeter illustrates one hour, and each color symbolizes one friend. Details like this go on and on and on.

Merel excluded nothing in her visual diary. The people she met, the friend she had lunch with, the distances she traveled (and whether by foot, bicycle, public transportation, train, boat or plane), the hours she worked and the time she spent sleeping. Every single meal is represented.

But the obsessiveness doesn’t stop there. The timeline also shows very mundane personal facts. Want to know how many showers Merel took? It’s there. Did she shampoo? That’s there, too. You can find every movie and TV show she watched, the number of times she hit the snooze button in the morning, even every a-choo. God bless you, Merel!

“Now that 2011 is over and my timeline is finished, I love the fact that I can look back on any moment of the year. But it’s kind of scary, too. It makes it almost impossible to have secrets!” Merel says.

A beautiful object in itself, the timeline is a repository of experiences, a faithful accomplice and the ultimate piece of personal information design. Above all, Merel Brouns’s Personal Timeline is an exquisite piece of graphic design that will make you turn every shade of green with envy (even if you don’t have OCD).

If you could obsessively keep a record of one thing in your life, what would it be?

The timeline completed

Some of thee tools used

More than 300 feet long when fully opened

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