Data Visualisation excellence
December 15, 2018

Data Visualisation excellence, my faves from #IIBAwards 2018

By Paul Laughlin

This time of year we have another opportunity to celebrate excellence in data visualisation, at the IIB 2018 awards.

The Information Is Beautiful (IIB) awards have been running since 2012. Originally created by Data Viz pioneer & artist David McCandless

His excellent Information is Beautiful blog works well with sponsor Kantar Media. Together they have done a good job of highlighting some of the best data visualisers of 21st century.

2018 appears to have been a great year for creative & engaging examples of data visualisation. So, I will spread my pick of this year’s winners over two blog posts.

As we have done for the last two years, I’ve reviewed the shortlist of each category (bronze, silver & gold awards). I will  share those that impressed me. That will sometimes mean disagreeing with the judges & sharing a bronze or silver finalist.

Those I have chosen are shared because I think they represent positive useful examples, for those working in businesses. Particularly for those who have completed by one day training course on data visualisation – here are some more positive examples.

I hope everyone finds these useful examples & at the least enjoys the beauty of this work. Here is my subjective selection of excellence in data visualisation. The awards are divided into categories based on the topic being visualised.

DataViz award – Arts, Entertainment & Culture

This category has some obvious advantages in being able to provide entertaining visuals. However, the bar can also be set challengingly high, in terms of being aesthetically pleasing. 

In this category, I agree with the judges in their selection of an artistic entry from Alberto Lucas López for National Geographic. It is both an infographic and customised tree map of Picasso’s key works.

What makes this visualisation excellent is the combining of the principles for an effective tree map, with the visual content. In this case, recognisable images from Picasso’s own work & key use of colours. It creates a very evocative as well as functionally effective infographic.

Frames of Mind

From his early childhood years sketching in the dirt to his final hours at age 91, Pablo Picasso was devoted to mastering his deeply personal art. Tens of thousands of works that touch on countless topics. Those recurring topics are grouped in 12 major themes in this infographic.

Data Viz award – Sports & Leisure

This category can easily arouse tribalism and a gravitating towards your favourite sports. However, there were some very creative entries this year, across tennis, football & US National Parks.

With such a focus on the power of the human eye, communicating data well can be interpreted a visual challenge. Much less developed is the use of audio representation. BBC’s More or Less programme once featured an amusing auditory representation on data. It revealed how men’s voices lower in tone in deirect relation to the diameter of a male’s testicles.

Even more impressive is the gold award winner in this category. The team at Signal Noise worked with Siemens to create an intreactive data visualisation. The primary representation of the data is as much auditory as visual. An opportunity to see & hear the changes in noise levels at different times during FC Bayern matches.

Very engaging and a creative way to represent auditory data intuitively. A worthy winner, published by The Economist. Take a look (and listen) for yourself…

Reimagine the game | The Economist – Siemens – FC Bayern

Data visualisation and storytelling series, demonstrating the power of data to show the previously unseen energy created by fans of world’s favourite game.

DataViz award – Science & Technology

Those who recall my past blog post on the pitfalls of interactive data visualisations will know my views. All too often these can be an excuse to show off, rather than the most effective media.

However, the Silver award winner in this category really captivated me. In this video you can see how users can interact with a spherical model of the world & literally drill beneath the surface. This use of 3D mapping is not gratuitious either. The geospatial data, or geospatial context of related data, is the most important variable.

The UX for this appears intuitive, with a good mixture of 3D mapping, annotation & drill-down. The users is engaged and drawn into an exploration of information set in context. A good example of how interaction & animation can be used.

This is also an example of public data visualisation, being presented in a digital interactive poster. A great achievement by the team at SciComLab and a contribution to greater scientific education. As well as the video below, showing user interaction, you can interact yourself here.

DataViz award – Politics & Global

Once again, Gold, Silver & Bronze are all worthy winners. However, my eye was drawn to the silver entry from a team at The Marshall Project. Resulting in a very engaging data story published by Bloomberg.

I may be bias, as a fair portrayl of migrants & asylum seekers is a cause dear to my heart, but I think this is a great example of data viz in text. Embedding appropriate graphs to complement the written argument in a text post/document.

In this news post, readers are stepped through appropriate simple line charts, scatter plots & small multiples. Consistent use of colour hue & saturation, combined with interactivity bring these simple charts to life. Combined with search capabilities enabling selection of readers home city, personalise the message.

A helpful reminder that less is often more. These simple charts are readily understood & present all the data to give turthful context. That foundation encourages users’ exploration, in a way that complements the points being made in text. 

The Myth of the Criminal Immigrant

The link between immigration and exists in the imaginations of Americans, and nowhere else. The Trump administration’s first year of immigration policy has relied on claims that immigrants bring crime into America. President Trump’s latest target is sanctuary cities. “Every day, sanctuary cities release illegal immigrants, drug dealers, traffickers, gang members back into our communities,” he said last week.

DataViz award – Maps, Places and Spaces

Another opportunity to appreciate effective use of maps to represent geospatial data. With location data becoming more easily captured & relevant for more businesses, this skill is needed. Today’s analysts & data scientists need to be able to judge when & how to use maps.

Once again, my favourite in this category actually finished 3rd (bronze award). I selected this entry partly because of it’s simplicity and the relevance of well executed 2D mapping to businesses. This is also a great example of data visualisation embedded within an online article.

A team of data visualisers working for Zeit Online in Germany, used colours & mapping to explore Berlin streets. They visualise the data about the age of different street names in different parts of the city. Effective use is made both of colour overlays on street maps & density maps (using hexagons).

So many aspects of the history of those street names are explored through changing both colour hue & saturation. It is also a postive example for analysts of how to use density maps to better reflect over/under representation.   

Streetscapes – Mozart, Marx and a Dictator

Streets and squares are an archive of both language and history. We discovered some fascinating patterns in the distribution of the 450,000 street names in Germany. They tell the story of almost forgotten artists and historical events, they shed light on obsolete economic structures and trade routes, on dialects and on idioms imported from abroad.

Excellence in Data Visualisation – what did you enjoy?

I hope those examples entertain & inform you. Did you explore the longer list of winners or even have opportunity to attend this event?

If so, I’d love to hear which of the shortlisted winners you favoured. 

More importantly, what were you inspired to do? Given the above examples, how might you improve your own Data Viz effectiveness?