December 4, 2017

Data Viz Award winners, sharing the best of Kantar’s IIB 2017

By Paul Laughlin

Data Viz AwardAs data visualisation is a favourite theme on this blog, we’ve already covered the 2015 & 2016 “Information is Beautiful” (IIB) awards. Kantar’s leading, international, annual Data Viz Award.

Now Kantar’s 2017 results are out, we return; to share great examples of data visualisation from this year’s finalists.

It seems each year the standard just gets higher & variations get more creative. This is partly reflected in the change of categories for awards. Rather than now focusing on the method, interactive/mobile/infographic etc, they focus on content.

This makes sense and supports the maxim, that data visualisation is effective if (and only if) it helps you with the task intended. Graphic designers can create charts that are works of art, but if they do not help you better understand what is needed, they have failed.

Anyway, rather than slipping into my tutor persona (that I’ll be adopting again for a data viz training course this week), back to these awards.

I won’t cover every category, as there are so many winners. Rather, here is a personal selection of those examples that impressed me most.

Data Viz Award for Current Affairs & Politics

Although chilling in the story it tells, I was very impressed by the winner in this category. DestinyDesign, from Milan, took on the challenge of showing where ISIS terrorists come from. Their countries of origin and journeys to ISIS held territory.

Entitled “On their Way: The Journey of Foreign Fighters” it reminded me of a number of older data visualisations praised by Edward Tufte. With a high data density and a design that enables all the data to be displayed within a context that helps you explore.

A very impressive data viz design and important contribution. Reminding us again of the growing importance of data journalism in this world of low attention spans:

On Their Way: the Journey of Foreign Fighters

In the context of understanding the complex phenomenon of violent religious radicalization, this map details the journey of ISIS’ foreign fighters to the territories of the Caliphate, as well as of those who return. Starting from publicly available data, additional layers of information show how this phenomenon relates to the distance of each country from the destination, its total population and Islamic population.

Data Viz Award for People, Language & Identity

From the apparently important to the seemingly trivial, this next winner demonstrates creativity. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have played Google’s Quick Draw game. Few would see this as an opportunity for sociological research.

However, Thu-Huong Ha & Nikhil Sonnad, did just that. Realising that the data available could be used to compare how different men & women around the world drew circles. Choosing such a simple shape enable random sample of data to  be overlaid and shared in this simple data visualisation.

The more you look, the more questions this poses. Prompting you to think about the role of gender & culture on simple physical tasks:

How do you draw a circle? We analyzed 100,000 drawings to show how culture shapes our instincts

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have played Google’s game Quick, Draw! prompting us to ask what takeaways it might have for global culture, like whether your location and language affect how you draw. Using circles, the great universal symbol, Nikhil Sonnad and Thu-Huong Ha of Quartz answered that question.

Data Viz Award for Environments & Maps

Here I part company with the judges. Although the gold award winner is impressive, I was more engaged by the silver award winner for this category.

John Nelson took on the task of comparing NASA’s latest 2016 Earth at Night image, with the 2012 equivalent. He then used a “pixel-difference math bot” (whatever that is). That enabled him to identify where lights have increased & decreased in different places.

The result is both simple to understand and absorbing to explore. Prompting a story about why lighting is increasing or decreasing in different places across Europe. He has added interactive text to support the viewer with hypotheses for pixel changes.

Good use of colour on a map, to add an important dimension, with mapping required for context (not just for effect):

Lights on & lights out

As a follow-up to last week’s visualization of Old Light and New Light, I wanted to make a single map, of the whole world, comparing NASA’s new 2016 Earth At Night image to the 2012 version.

Data Viz Award for Sports, Games & Leisure

The gold award winner in this category is another great example of creativity and use of available big data.

Moritz Stefaner, and his team at Truth & Beauty, have taken Google Trends data on searches for food. With over 12 years of weekly data, they were able to identify clear seasonal patterns for each vegetable, fruit or drink.

The result is a rare example of where a circular graphic works, with months of the year as circumference & radius for Google search counts. It is engaging and fun to explore, clearly displaying both macro seasonality and inviting exploration of detail.

With all these examples, it is worth clicking on the studio links, to see interactive visualisation, beyond screenshot. But here are the details and image for Apricots:

Rhythm of Food

This interactive data explorer is built by acclaimed designer Moritz Stefaner and his team at Truth & Beauty, using Google Trends data. It’s also the second in the Google News Lab’s series of visual experiments, with the first being a project with Alberto Cairo and the world’s best designers to develop innovative newsroom interactive visualisations.

Data Viz Award for Outstanding Individual

It is a mark of how much data visualisation & data artists have matured as a profession, that so many great agencies are cited above. But, it’s also good to recognise truly gifted individuals.

Nadieh Bremer, Zan Armstrong & Jennifer Christiansen have done a great job in producing this Gold Award Winner. The prize was won by two of their submitted visualisations, but the one I thought worked best, was this one.

Surprisingly, it’s another example of a radial axis. With time period being displayed on circumference of circular graphs, to explore birth peaks. Answering the engaging question, why are so many babies born around 8am.

It is a strong example of how static graphics & text can be used to engage the viewer and take them through a story. A good example for commercial data visualisers. Telling the story of the data, while still sharing the wider data set, without confusing the reader.

Why Are so Many Babies Born around 8:00 A.M.?

Charts often aggregate across time to simplify the numbers. Instead, for this visual made for Scientific American, the focus has been on visualizing the number of babies born across different time frames; from weeks down to the minute, to reveal the role of scheduling & intervention in births.

Kantar Information is Beautiful 2017 Data Viz Awards

What do you think? Were you also impressed by those examples? Did you make it along to the ceremony this year?

If you have other positive examples, or other award winners that you’d like showcased on this blog, please let me know.

Vote by adding your comments below for visualisations that deserve to be shared.