In the first round of the 2014-15 On Think Tanks Data Visualisation Competition, we limited entries only to static visualisations. Static visualisations could be anything from a simple bar chart to a multi-part infographic that combines a number of data points to tell a cohesive story.
Data visualisations are not popular at the moment because they are new — just ask Florence Nightingale. What is new is the explosion of tools that help us to manage large data sets and the complementary tools to help visualise data, like Infogr.am.
In that context, it might seem strange to ask for a competition of static visualisations. But representing data accurately and in a way that tells a compelling story is its own skill. What’s more, it’s a skill that doesn’t require users to be able to manipulate the data themselves. Rather, it requires good ‘old fashioned’ design. That’s what we seek to honour with this first round of the competition this year.
Our diverse panel of judges have reviewed the top six data visualisations as determined by the public vote. Although we would normally only look at the top five, because the public vote was so close between the fifth and the sixth entry, we decided it made sense to consider the top six in this case.
And after we fixed a minor technical glitch in our review mechanism, the judges were able to come to a clear agreement on the winner and the runner up for this round. So without further ado, the winner of Round 1 and of the US$1500 prize is…
ROUND 1 WINNER
Eric Barrett, Nino Macharashvili, Ia Ninoshvili, Mariam Kobuladze, Jason Addie, Irakli Chumburidze
ORGANISATION AND COUNTRY:
There are two surprising things about this visualisation that make it so compelling: one is the manner of telling. The judges really appreciated the use of photography woven into the visualisation. It helps to round out a story that has strong foundations in the data.
As one judge put it:
‘Combining photos and charts livens up the visualisation and creates much more “personalised” effect drawing the viewership into the issue. I’ve also appreciated how the visualisation draws reader into the story, which unrolls as one scrolls.”
And indeed that is the other surprise in the visualisation: the stark reality of differential achievement between boys and girls in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects in the Eurasian country of Georgia.
While the visualisation does draw out the implications in terms of Georgian firms not finding suitably skilled workers, the judges did feel that a policy recommendation or implication could have been more specifically teased out. As it stands, the audience is mainly parents and ensuring they continue to support their daughters in these areas. That hits on a key cultural point, but doesn’t necessarily pass muster as a policy recommendation.
Another judge noted that, when it comes to the first set of data actually visualised, ‘the title for the first section would more appropriately be “girls and boys both score about the same on tests”, which is the point of the chart. This would help better to set the scene of the story.’
But despite this minor feedback, the strong design aesthetic and the compelling story made it the overall winner. Well done, JumpStart!
ROUND 1 RUNNER UP
We couldn’t let JumpStart have all the fun though. We also have a US$500 prize for our first runner up…
Jimmy Carrillo Saavedra, Carmen Heck
ORGANISATION AND COUNTRY:
The judges were in strong agreement that, even if it didn’t win, this visualisation on illegal mining activities across countries in the Amazon should be recognised as an excellent example of what static visualisations can be when done right. As one judge noted:
I love the design overall. It does a great job at combining a number of different ways of conveying information, while still telling a story. It sets the scene with the map, it includes pictures, it includes charts, and it really highlights the problem in Peru as compared to its neighbouring countries. I also really like that it takes a technical or environmental issue and draws out clear social implications.
Similar to the winning visualisation, several of the judges felt the policy recommendation was unclear. One suggested that: ‘Very few data visualisations go beyond presenting the data in compelling form. If the organisation involved engages in policy advocacy, it should find ways to weave in its demands and highlight evidence-informed policy actions that are needed.’
There was also some confusion among the non-Spanish speaking judges about what exactly the map was trying to convey, though some were particularly impressed that: ‘I am not a Spanish language speaker but I fully understood the storyline, the data being presented.’
So again, congratulations!
ALSO CONSIDERED BY THE JUDGES
We did strongly consider four other visualisations in this judging round. We congratulate all of them on their strong showing of public support!