Data Visualization Trends Favor Simple Design
The inaugural Information is Beautiful awards ceremony has come and gone, but we’re still deep in thought over the results. Created by David McCandless, founder of the popular site informationisbeautiful.com, the entries were split into six categories and evaluated by an all-star panel of judges: musician and visual artist Brian Eno, senior curator of the Museum of Modern Art Paola Antonelli, BrainPickings.org editor Maria Popova, Guardian Datablog editor Simon Rogers and David himself.
“We were blown away by the standard and variety of the entries,” said McCandless in an interview with Wired. “We had quite a few from Russia, where visual data is a strong design skill. We also had entries from Brazil, and a lot from eastern countries including China and South Korea — it shows that visual data is spreading.”
Simple is Viral
While each winner is certainly worth a once-over, the Data Visualization category is particularly interesting. Peter Ørntoft of Denmark took home the gold for a project called Information Graphics in Context: Interest no.4, Refugees and Immigrants. The study focused on whether or not the Danes think its ethical to wear religious symbols in public professions.
At first glance, the resulting graphics may not appear to be representative of much data, but closer inspection reveals that they pack a pretty heavy punch. “I have used the looks and appearances of traditional religious symbols to design the diagrams explaining the data,” writes Ørntoft. By shaping the diagrams this way, Ørntoft believes the receiver understands more layers of information.
“There are a number of criteria we look for when judging these awards,” noted McCandless. “Not only do they have to have the right visual quality and be easily understood, they have to have that invisible element of story telling as well.”
In other words, it seems we can forget the razzle dazzle. Simple data visualizations are preferred so long as they are representative of meaningful narrative.
McCandless is taking a break from the world of awards in order to work on his next book, Knowledge is Beautiful, but you check out the full list of winners here while you wait for next year’s round.
“I think for next year’s awards we’ll want to use the design community a bit more,” he added. “There’s so much material out there that to keep on top of.”