Jacob Berchem

Drawing Lines in the Frac Sand

Frac sand mining is a complex issue debated around the world—nowhere more than in Wisconsin, home to large reserves of this unique sand. The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism has followed the rise of this industry in Wisconsin for the past five years. The Center's exhaustive, long-form reports cover the politics, health effects and environmental impact. Unfortunately, without a proper understanding of the mining process and industry, these reports lose significance.


The Center approached me, interested in distilling this information into a more accessible format. Their original idea was to create a small information graphic with small, quippy illustrations. I challenged them to rethink their usual approach (long-form reports and information graphics.) My idea: let sand tell its own story. Use actual sand to illustrate a handful of points, and make it easy to share.


Initial brainstorm meetings with the client produced a rough framework of the visual direction and the requirements.

An initial test with the sand was a success; missing was the support of line illustrations to further drive home the idea.

Instagram shot of the production of the project

A long night of work fueled by Chinese takeout.