the latest Information is Beautiful award winners
August 7, 2023

My selection from the latest Information is Beautiful Award winners

By Paul Laughlin

In past years I have made a fuss about the Information is Beautiful awards. For me they were a great opportunity in the year to both celebrate some positive examples & be inspired by some creative approaches. As I shared previously, I was especially interested in aspects that could be applied by those working with more mainstream tools like MS Excel.

Sadly the IIB awards took a couple of years off due to the global pandemic, but I was delighted to seen the event return (under new sponsorship) last year. I’ve been further encouraged to see this was not a one-off as calls are already out for 2023 submissions. My recent review of Data Visualisation in Excel” by Jon Schwabish has also opened my eyes to a wider variety of chart types being possible to apply.

So, as a reminder to readers (including those who have attended my data viz training) of my support for this event, let me return to reviewing winners. To encourage more of you to submit entries for the 2023 judging, in this post I share my preferred winners from 2022. Listed below are those award winning visualisations that impressed me and what I admired about each design. I hope they both inspire your own practice & perhaps encourage you to submit one of your own designs.

A reminder of how the winners are categorised

Before diving in to sharing three designs that inspired me, let me first explain how winners are defined. Submitted designs are categorised, either by the topic of data being visualised or characteristics of the entrant (like rising stars, studios or individuals). Within each category the winners are recognised like the Olympics (with gold, silver & bronze awards). One of the aspects of these awards which can help them be broadly relevant to those working in different organisations is that breath of categories. Whether it relates to your job or your hobbies, most people can find a topic of personal interest.

Categories are refined each year, but for 2022 the categories of awards included:

  • COVID-19 visualisations
  • Arts, Entertainment & Culture
  • Business Analytics
  • Current Affairs
  • Humanitarian
  • Leisure, Games & Sport
  • People, Language & Identity
  • Places, Spaces & Environment
  • Science, Technology & Health
  • Unusual Visualisations
  • A rising star
  • An impressive individual
  • The most outstanding studio
  • Exemplary book
  • Most beautiful visualisation

I reviewed all & have below pulled out three examples that I think are worth you seeing to inspire your data visualisation work. I hope that are both of interest and relevant for your opportunities or challenges.

Operational dashboards can be beautiful

My first chosen example is from the information category that is probably the most relevant to most readers. Business Analytics. Within that category, I have also chosen the visualisation that is most achievable by the majority of analytics or BI teams.

Although the Gold & Silver award winners in this section were creative & intriguing, the Bronze winner is the one that caught my eye. It is the most useful example for the data maturity of most workplaces. At first glance it may look like many dashboards you have seen in use, if more tasteful in colour palette.

Looking a bit deeper highlights why this example was award winning. Consistent use of an appropriate colour palette (across text & charts). A helpful mix of chart types (including bullet charts & I can even live with this use of doughnut charts which I usually hate). Tasteful restraint to serve purpose (rather than showing off) also extends to the interactivity. I can see the switch to focussing solely on attrition cases being regularly used by HR departments. Which of these approaches could you apply?

HR Attrition Dashboard

This data visualization provides insights on the attrition trends in an organization with several breakdowns by department, job role, demographics, and surve…

A dashboard design to inspire your own improvements.

Scrollytelling can be even more beautiful with Cairo

Ok, for my next choice I was influenced by seeing that Alberto Cairo was one of the team who worked on that entry. I have so much respect for his expertise & aesthetic that I had to check that one out. But, I wasn’t disappointed and do consider it a relevant example as well as a beautiful design.

On my data visualisation training course, over the last 5 years I have heard more interest in adding more interactivity to their data visualisations. Often delegates are engaged by the example of scrollytelling as a media which I share (from the ONS). So, I was also glad to see that this Bronze award winner in the People, Language & Identity category used scrollytelling.

The first aspect to impress me in this design was the creativity of data visualisations (data on dreams lends itself to innovative forms). But the most relevant successful design element for most readers is the navigation aids. Beyond the normal constraints of vertical scrolling, this offers a range of navigation approaches to the viewer. You can use the one that suits you or your interest at that time. The best way I can explain this is to say try it for yourself. Click below & then tell me you weren’t drawn into the animation & comparing across multiple dimensions. A fine way to achieve an absorbing experience.

The Shape of Dreams – by Federica Fragapane and Google News Lab

Data visualization project exploring how people look for the meaning of their dreams on Google. Concept, data analysis and infographics by Federica Fragapane, code by Paolo Corti. A project for Google Trends and Google News Lab.

Be inspired by new ways to empower scrollytelling in book-like options.

Watching the action unfold through animated gifs

Staying with the theme of animated or interactive data visualisations, my last choice is in the world of sports. Once again the design should suit the topic. If data on dreams suits an immersive creative experience in which you can lose yourself, sports data surely needs action. Somehow a static design just wouldn’t do justice to the ever changing successes within a major sporting event.

So, my last choice is the Silver award winner within the Leisure, Games & Sports category. This time the media is animated gifs embedded within a simple blog post explaining their design & purpose. It is fascinating to see the consistent design approach (in terms of colour palettes & simple shapes) be brought to life through such animation.

What prompts me to recommend this example though is the careful selection of each design for the corresponding thought. Although still using the same style guide, consideration of the action in each sport has been used to guide each design. Different simple shapes, colour combos & animations suit tennis verses football verses swimming. This is a fine example of how topic, real-world experiences and context should also inform our design. Not just the data type & chart types you could use.

Animated Sport Results

A collection of animated gifs replaying various sport matches and events. The “timeline triangles” visualization works with several sport disciplines when…

Animated gifs using simple shapes can bring the data to life.

What were your favourites?

I hope you found that selection interesting and inspiring. I’d love to hear your choices from last year’s winners. Do also drop me a line if you choose to enter this year’s competition. I’d be very encouraged if my simple selection of examples had encouraged some of your data visualisers to try your hand.

For anyone wanting to know more about this competition or considering entering, here are the details for 2023:

Submit Your Entry

Submissions will open on July 15, 2023 and close on August 15, 2023 at 23:59 PT. The Awards ceremony will take place in November, 2023. Learn more about category descriptions, and about the nominations and submissions process in our FAQs. Entries Entries should be based on data (qualitative and/or quantitative) and have visual components.

Best of luck if you do enter and I look forward to sharing next year’s winners in due time.