Interview with Will Su
FrontEnd Engineer @ Dropbox

Will specializes in data visualization, FrontEnd development and design, based in New York 🗽 His work focuses on presenting data efficiently and beautifully with fluid interactivity. Prior to Dropbox, he worked as a Data Visualization Consultant at the United Nations Global Compact and studied Data Visualization(M.S) at Parsons school of design in NY, where he creates work that sits at the intersection of design, statistics, and computer science 💻 Check out Will's Behance here and the award winning data visualization project Foodiverse here!
Hi Will, would you introduce yourself and your design practice?
What's up guys! My name is Will Su and I am a front-end engineer and designer at Dropbox. So my day to day work including building data driven product, spot user needs and essentially building a product that unleashes people's creative energy. So prior to Dropbox, I received my massive science degree at Parsons where I work on the project that sits at the intersection of design computer science and statistics. And before my grad school I worked as a graphic designer and I did my undergrad studies in Visual Communication design.
Could you tell us more about your Kantar prize winning project NYC Foodiverse?
So for the Foodiverse product is actually the first big product I did and I spent approximately five months on it. So it's essentially just me trying to express my ideas in a way that use the thing. I am fully aware of this. So I would suggest anyone if you want to try to do that data visualization, just go for it! You don't know what could happen next. So the product is basically integrates data from New York City department of health, social media like Foursquare to kind of digging into the relationship of city governments, housing inspection and what social media responses. And during the process I encounter a lot of small things that I had to solve. And at one point I remember I basically spent two weeks to figure out how to project things. So I would definitely say the time you spend on it is definitely worth it and will yield a good result!
What are you preferred tools to design with? Take us through your practice from Idea to launch.
So they're definitely a lot of tools for you to choose from when it comes to a database. But what I prefer is building products in the web context. So I usually use something like React and React ways, of course, D3, d3.js to implement ideas and bring them into life. So the first thing I would do is digging into the dataset and find interesting stories. And it was only after the research phase I would make the engineering plan through the design sketches, process the data and then sometimes hand sketch some of the possible visual encoding solutions. And there's definitely a lot of small things going on in each phase. For example you just couldn't find the data you want and sometimes you just have to learn something on the spot. Actually that happens a lot during the process. And I would say for me, I spent around two weeks to 8 months on your project the on its scale and complexity.
Why are you so drawn to data visualization? Tell us about your first and last project working with data.
So the reason why I love categorization is because it portrays data from multiple angles with accurate visual representation and also from a design perspective, I just love to find solutions for people to understand their data better. And the first product I got is essentially mapping your exterior taxi data in 2016 New Years Eve. I'm really happy with the end result. So from there on I work with a lot of open source database and essentially that leads through my master's thesis which is a data visualization product that helps a researcher and scholars to dig into the refugee movement data across the world.
What are you currently working on? Any projects or challenges coming up in 2019?
So I don't have any thing lining up for this year but I find I just finished a collaboration with my girlfriend. She's a fashion designer. So we did a menswear collection using dollarization as a element. I'm super excited about this, it's coming out this summer so stay tuned. As for more for me, I want to grow myself technically this year for example I'll be focusing on things like software development, how to build a product and how to understand data driven product in the enterprise context and of course if you have cool ideas feel free to reach out! My website is so drop me a line!