Announcing the Data Journalism Awards

In the latest Datastories podcast, from the “Exotic European Voiced” due of Bertini and Stefaner, there was some interesting discussion about the rights and wrongs of visualisation contests and the debate touched on the concept of awards. Then, yesterday evening, Enrico posted a blog article about his concern about the focus of storytelling in data visualisation.

Today, almost by celestial design, I want to share details of the Data Journalism Awards, the first international contest recognising outstanding work in the field of data journalism worldwide. One of the three award categories is “Data visualisation and storytelling”.

These awards offer an opportunity for members of this burgeoning field to submit their wonderfully innovative projects and stand a chance of winning $7,500 in prizes.

In an age of overwhelming abundance of data, journalists and media organisations are learning to separate signal from noise in order to provide valuable insights to society. From the Guardian to the New York Times, La Stampa to Die Zeit, journalists and media organisations are experimenting with new ways of using data to improve reportage of complex issues and to give readers direct access to the sources behind the headlines. As Tim Berners-Lee says, “data-driven journalism is the future.” To recognize and showcase outstanding work, as well as highlight best practices in this fast-growing field, the first international Data Journalism Awards (DJA) has been established this year.


There are three award categories awarded at both (i) national and international and (ii) local and regional levels to give a total of six prizes. The three categories are:

  1. Data-driven investigative journalism
  2. Data visualisation & storytelling
  3. Data-driven applications

Each of the six winners will win €7,500 a DJA certificate and a digital medal. Two runners up will receive DJA certificates and digital medals.

Who is it open to?

It is important to note that this competition is not just open to journalists. Media companies, non-profit organisations, freelancers and individuals are all eligible for the awards.


Applicants are welcome to submit their best data journalism projects before 10 April 2012 by visiting the submissions page. Between 11 and 29 April a pre-jury selection will take place and completed by 30 April. Between 1st and 15th May the main jury process will commence in advance of the 16th May award decisions. The 31st May will see the awards ceremony taking place in Paris.

Find out more

You can learn more about the competition and how to apply at or alternatively send any questions you may have to Liliana Bounegru, the DJA Coordinator, at

Who is the competition being run by?

The DJA is organised by the Global Editors and is sponsored by Google. The competition is run by the European Journalism Centre.

Datawrapper: Open Source data visualisation creator

Datawrapper is a brand new tool unveiled by ABZV, a German training institution for newspaper journalists, but primarily the result of the vision, talent and commitment of Mirko Lorenz and Nicolas Kayser-Bril.

Datawrapper provides an Open Source platform for users to upload data and create simple, embeddable data visualisations and is particularly targeted at the data journalism field to facilitate the quick utilisation of visualisation to enhance written articles without requiring a platoon of developers and designers. Of course, its simplicity makes it attractive to a far broader demographic but I know this is where much of the motivation for the development came from.

The functionality of Datawrapper is very simple. You just search for a data set (Excel, Google, web table), copy it, paste the contents into Datawrappers first screen and then follow the instructions to construct and customise the visualisation before copying the embed code and pasting it on to your own web page. At the moment there are five visualisation types available: Line, Bar, Pie, Table and, interestingly, Streamgraph, but these options will be extended in due course.

The version launched will simply be a starter, with an ongoing cycle of development, enhancement and refinement. There has already been much interest in this offering and Dortmund Newspaper Ruhr Nachrichten has already demonstrated the use of the embeddable tool in a story published online yesterday.

‘Getstats’ campaign to improve how we handle numbers

Just a quick mention for a great new(ish) site I was alerted to. Getstats is a 10-year campaign launched by the Royal Statistical Society (UK) to improve the public’s capabilities with numbers, particularly statistics, probability and risk, across our daily lives. The site contains frequent blog posts about contemporary stories or issues relating to statistics and is also curating key events, glossary definitions and resources. You can follow updates via Twitter @RSSgetstats.

My only complaint would be that there is far too much imagery of Wayne Rooney and/or Man Utd on the home page!

The data visualisations I like: What about you?

When you run a blog you are using this platform as a shop window to share your ideas, inspirations and thoughts. Eventually, after a certain amount of time and, I guess, success, you are lucky enough to establish enough of a profile that people start to invite you proactively for your opinions on subjects, without you having to encourage it!

One of the most common question I am asked these days is what sort of data visualisation I like the most.

It is clearly a very open-ended question and one that is hard to satisfactorily answer on the spot without later thinking more deeply and wishing to refine your response. Indeed, forming a pure and consistent conviction about what you like is difficult (for some) especially in such a rapidly growing and evolving field like data visualisation.

You may be currently caught up with the beauty of a flavour of the month project or have a particular persuasion towards a given designer or even a contemporary subject. You might marvel at the technical capability of a design but find yourself hypnotised by this technical competence above the resulting value of the visualisation. All these diversions can cause you to respond with a different answer to this type of question on each occasion it is asked.

I’ve been reflecting recently on what I truly consider to be my most ‘liked’ demonstrations of this art form, particularly following my recent run of data visualisation training sessions, where the question popped up on a few occasions, and also in preparing for an article I am writing for O’Reilly Radar.

“Simple visualisations that reveal rich stories”

After a long mental trawl through over five years of active participation in this field I’ve concluded, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the visualisations I love are those that exhibit a very simple design execution but unlock seemingly disproportionately rich stories. I say disproportionately rich because they aren’t complicated constructions and seem to give you more insightful return than the interpreting effort you are required to put in. Above all they respond emphatically to the ‘so what?’ challenge you can pose to design solutions.

Here are two perfect examples of what I mean:

The first example above comes from Michael Deal, a US based designer, who was commissioned by sports manufacturer Umbro to produce visualisation designs for each match during the 2010 World Cup. I profiled Michael and his design process in my first Visualisation Insights article.

What I love about this approach is the fact you can unlock such a detailed story from this small, dense and straightforward display. Plotted over the duration of a match, the green lines are the passes made by each team, the blue triangles are the shots on goal and the red dots are goals scored. This reveals so much about the possession and position of each team, the ebb and flow of attacks, the penetration of attacking play, the effectiveness of defensive tactics, the opportunism of some who score with few shots, the profligacy of others. Regardless of your liking of the sport, whether you recall or even care about the matches themselves, you cannot fail to see the story unfold in these little gems.

In this next piece produced for Thomson Sport, the display is even simpler, with just two lines plotting the incremental points tally for the opposing Rugby Union teams across an array of Six Nations encounters, but what you get is a fascinating path of how leads were built, deficits were reduced, the periods of deadlock, the swing of potential victory from one side to the other, the moments when a lead becomes unassailable. Maybe it is the unique scoring of Rugby which lends itself to such analysis but, as with the example above you, see a rich story emerge from the simplest of encodings and with so very little effort on your part as the reader.

There are many other examples I could have used, but these two stand out for me as super demonstrations of how data visualisation can unlock patterns in data that would otherwise remain unseen. Furthermore, as I have mentioned before, there is something incredibly elegant about a visualisations that successfully portrays a story in static form.

So what about you?

I’ve shown you my hand, so let’s see what you’ve got!

Take a step back from the relentless stream of great new works, what are the examples of data visualisation you truly think reflect the practice at its finest? What type of designs do you most consistently ‘like’?

Stick a comment in the box below, share links to your examples and explain why the choice you have made strikes such a chord with you…

Best of the visualisation web… January 2012 (part 2)

At the end of each month I pull together a collection of links to some of the most relevant, interesting or thought-provoking web content I’ve come across during the previous month. If you follow me on Twitter and Google+ you will see many of these items shared as soon as I find them.

Here’s part two of the latest collection from January 2012 (see part one):

Periscopic | Flavour of the moment, Periscopic, featured in the Feb issue of Print Magazine | Article

Premise | Tom Steinberg proposes that “there are only two kinds of data visualization in the modern world. They are Story Visualizations and Answer Visualizations” | Article

Presentation Zen | 10 great books to help you think, create, & communicate better in 2012 | Books

Fast Co Design | Article which discusses the findings of a research paper from Dartmouth College which suggests “Infographics Can Save Morons From Themselves” | Article

Guardian Books Blog | “Shelf live: stop-motion splendour” – brilliant animation of bookshelves reorganising themselves | Video

Stamen | Review of what the celebrated design studio achieved during 2011 | Article

Switch 2 OSM | Site dedicated to promoting the benefits switching the online maps you might use to Open Street Map | Site

Tableau | Really innovative site for the relentless hiring of folks at Tableau | Job Postings

New York Times Election 2012 | NYT project which compares the candidates for the 2012 presidential election in terms of the raising of finances for their campaigns | Interactive Visualisation

Slate | “The Greatest Paper Map of the United States You’ll Ever See” | Maps

Brainpickings | “The greatest grid” – Article discussing how Manhattan’s famous street map came to be | Article

Matt Might | An oldie, but not seen it for a while and really like it every time I do see it – The illustrated guide to a Ph.D. | Visual Thinking | Article which discusses the visualisation of networked data – “The Links That Bind Us: Network Visualizations” | Design

Wired | The mathematics of lego | Article

Jason Davies | Can you hear the shape of a graph? “The Music of Graphs” | Interactive Toy?

Guardian | “Comment is Free” piece about the trouble with numbers in Guardian reporting | Article

Eager Eyes | Nice summary by Robert of the state of information visualization in 2012 | Article

The Why Axis | Bryan assesses the use of data visualisation/infographics to accompany the State of the Union address | Critique

The Why Axis | In this next piece, Bryan looks specifically at the visualisation approaches used in coverages of the New Hampshire Primaries | Critique

Austin Kleon | Thinking critically about “infographics,” “data visualizations,” and other visual junk | Critique

Under the Raedar | Plotting the daytime population in the United States, building on work done to achieve the same for London | Static Visualisation

Perceptual Edge | Stephen Few talks about ‘Data Visualization and the Placebo Effect’ | Article

Visualisation, etc. | How many VisWeek papers could the NYT write in three weeks? | Article

Infosthetics | Visualizing the Demographic Reach of Yahoo! Homepage Storie | Interactive Visualisation

TULP Inspiration | Profiling Eric Fischer’s project which presents world travel versus global communication as recorded by Twitter | Static Visualisation

Well-Formed Data | Moritz describes his latest work involving a large number of graphics produced for the annual Global Risk Report published by the World Economic Forum | Static Visualisations

Eager Eyes | Another interesting narrative from Robert about the direction info graphics are taking | Article

Data Pointed | “Where The 0.05% Live” – Stephen maps the “Mostly Uninhabited United States” | Static Visualisation

XRDS | Jérôme Cukier asks ‘Can data visualization help build democracy?’ | Article

Presenting the top five most popular posts on Visualising Data during the past month:

Announcing 2012 data visualisation training course dates – January 13th, 2012

Best of the visualisation web… December 2011 (part 1) – January 10th, 2012

Best of the visualisation web… December 2011 (part 2) – January 11th, 2012

Sightsmap provides interactive ‘sightseeing heatmap’ – January 23rd, 2012

Graphics now appearing on coins! – January 5th, 2012

Best of the visualisation web… January 2012 (part 1)

At the end of each month I pull together a collection of links to some of the most relevant, interesting or thought-provoking web content I’ve come across during the previous month. If you follow me on Twitter and Google+ you will see many of these items shared as soon as I find them.

Here’s part one of the latest collection from January 2012 (see part two):

Vimeo | Jer Thorp talks about his work helping the New York Times visualise the ‘life of a story’ and the design of the NYC 9/11 Memorial | Video

Excel Charts | Jorge presents 12 Data Visualization questions he doesn’t feel he (or rather the field) has sufficient answers for | Article | A compilation of “12 Great Visualizations That Made History” | Collection

Flickr | Professor Michael Stoll has some wonderful Flickr collections, here’s one group titled ‘A Plan for New York City 1969’ | Images | Profile of Christopher Warnow’s processing-based visualisation project which looks at the Amazon recommendation network | Interactive Visualisation

R-Bloggers | Amanda Cox on ‘How The New York Times Graphics Department Uses R’ | Article | Following a 6-year effort, details of a staggering map project which offers an inventory of the forests in the US | Static Visualisation

Chartsnthings | Kevin Quealy talks through the design process behind the NYT’s ‘Defense Budget Puzzle’ project | Design Process

Chartsnthings | Kevin Quealy talks through the design process behind the NYT’s ‘Before, During and After: The Richest 1 Percent’ project | Design Process

New York Times | The NYT’s ‘Choice Words’ project – “Selected words used by President Obama in his State of the Union addresses, and by Republican presidential candidates in their debates, television interviews and major speeches since May” | Static Visualisation

Bear 71 | Bear 71 is the true story of a female grizzly bear monitored by wildlife conservation officers from 2001 – 2009. This is the interactive, animated 20 minute documentary of their findings and the bear’s story | Interactive Visualisation/Animation

Code Year | Fantastic learning resource – “Sign up for Code Year to start receiving a new interactive programming lesson every Monday. You’ll be building apps and websites before you know it!” | Site

Color Method | A colour matching game. That’s all, get playing! | Colour Theory/Site

Logo Design Love | Funny collection of potentially merged logo source ideas | Logos

Aligned Left | An amazingly valuable, growing collection of D3 tutorials | Tutorials

Blog About Stats | Data Journalism: A Handbook, Guides and a Competition | Data Journalism

Eager Eyes | Robert discusses an alternative approach to the classic two series line chart, suggesting the uncertainty of the undecided voters should be embraced | Article

Eye Magazine | Interesting article titled ‘Words in practice’, discussing how writing and designing are “part of a continuum of communication skills”. | Article

Vimeo | Drew Conway offers some first steps in learning D3.js for data visualisation | Video

Pentagram | Paula Scher’s map paintings exhibited in New York | Exhibition | Video from Steven Johnson’s “Long Zoom” talk, especially interesting is Chapter 6 about the London cholera outbreak and John Snow’s famous map | Video | Google-sponsored Data Journalism Awards open to entries | Contest

Guardian | ITO World produced an animated visualisation to portray a ‘day in the life of Britain’s new rail network’ based on national rail timetable and plans for the new High Speed line | Animated Visualisation

Fast Co Design | Detailed article about the Helvetica font ‘Conquered The World With Its Cool, Comforting Logic’ | Article

Guardian | Revealing the power of narratives and how they can aid memory – “A compelling story line, however off the wall, can help us remember the facts we’re trying to learn” | Article

Times Talent | Wonderful job opportunity as a Data Scientist for the New York Times Company | Job Posting

Infographics News | Texas and weather graphics: the Dallas Morning News instant classic | Static Visualisation

Mother Jones | Another great demonstration of how you can lie with charts, this time on the topic of global warming | Principles

Logo Design Love | A mix up with the Madrid 2020 logo… | Logos

Trulia | More elegant visualisation output from Trulia, this time on house hunters in the US | Interactive Visualisation

Huffington Post | NASA visualises the earth’s temperatures from the late 1880’s to the modern day | Video

O’Reilly Radar | Mac Slocum presents an episode of O’Reilly Radar with an interview with author Clay Johnson ‘Info overload vs over-consumption’ | Video

Marije Rooze | Marije Rooze’s master’s thesis which involves a fansastic collection of over 150 visualisations and graphics form the New York Times and the Guardian | Collection

Presenting the top five most popular posts on Visualising Data during the past month:

Announcing 2012 data visualisation training course dates – January 13th, 2012

Best of the visualisation web… December 2011 (part 1) – January 10th, 2012

Best of the visualisation web… December 2011 (part 2) – January 11th, 2012

Sightsmap provides interactive ‘sightseeing heatmap’ – January 23rd, 2012

Graphics now appearing on coins! – January 5th, 2012

Winner announced! Free data visualisation training place

Last week I celebrated this website’s second birthday and posted details of an amazing, sensational, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lucky reader to win a prize to attend one of my ‘Introduction to Data Visualisation‘ training course free of charge.

To enter, all you had to do was submit a comment against the original post with a reason for why you wanted to attend the training course. The degree of compelling-ness, the amount of flattery and the level of deserving you were able articulate unfortunately had no influence whatsoever on the truly random nature of the prize draw.

As I have done for previous contests I decided to dust off an old Excel VBA routine to randomly spin through all the valid entries and entrants. I then pressed record on my (worryingly) shakily-held iPhone and made the video below. I uploaded it to YouTube, lost a bit of resolution, and realised that some viewers may succumb to travel sickness when watching the footage. However, for transparency I had to be faithful to sticking with the very first draw I did and so, counting down from 10 to zero, the winner is… Nina Pilar!

Congratulations to the winner and thanks to all who entered and sorry that you couldn’t all win but hopefully I’ll see some of you during my training tour anyway…

Esquire’s ‘The United States of 2012’

Esquire magazine (or more accurately the web version) has published the results of an interesting project titled ‘The United States of 2012‘ where they commissioned five different mapping concepts from a range of artists and designers to “reflect the state of things this year”. For visualisation fans, three of the five submissions were produced by familiar names: MIT SENSEable City Lab, Eric Fischer and Stamen.

Red state, blue state, big state, small state, north and south and east and west: How we define our similarities and differences with each other often comes down to where we see ourselves on the map of America. But what if we threw out the standard-issue version and started over with something new?

MIT SENSEable City Lab: The United States of Cities

The SENSEable city lab designers used anonymous, aggregated cell phone data depicting commuting patterns in eight major US urban area to demonstrate how mobile the definition of the workplace has become and the changes this is making to people’s lifestyles.

The data was compiled during the month of July 2010 from several million commuters who communicated via cell phone; the colored dots represent the commuters’ home locations, while the rings and their intensity represent the number of commuters traveling. The resulting map shows a breaking down of the traditional idea of a nation of states, and, instead, an ever-expanding urban sprawl that pushes the limits of our respective cities. This is a version of America that’s not based upon politics, or history, but one that’s constantly moving.

You can read more about the project and see more photos on the United Cities page.

Eric Fischer: The Real-Time City

As we have seen with many of Eric Fischer’s work in the past, he is a master at taking photo data from sources such as Flickr to create new narratives about where “the action is: the places we photograph to preserve, the places we tweet about”. In this project he aims to transform the map of the US, removing the sense of real geographical size and shape through a cartogram approach to scale areas according to their density of geotags from 8.7 Million geotagged tweets (from 2011) and 9.4 Million photos tagged from Flickr (2004 – 2011). Eric’s United States is an “interconnected web, the lines of which consist of a series of dots that each represent one tweet or one photo”.

Eric adds his own reflective thoughts on this Flickr site:

I still think it might work at a poster size, but a computer screen is really too small. The colors for the different states are arbitrary, just to give you a little more to orient yourself with since the shapes are sometimes so distorted.

Stamen: Where Does the Money Go?

This piece from Stamen combines migration data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with route information from MapQuest Open to show population movement alongside income flow building up an interactive image view of the 48 (contiguous) US States arranged by order of most county-level income lost through to the most gained.

Explore the loss and gain of income for counties using the slider above, type in a city or county you’re interested in into the county search box, or click anywhere on the map to view a county. When you see blue trails on the map (like this influx into Yuma County, Arizona), that means that people were moving to a particular county; red lines (like this exodus from Bristol County, Rhode Island to Florida) means they’re leaving that county.

You can read more about the design and the stories from this design on Stamen’s site.

Just for completeness, the additional pieces that make up this series of five designs are more artistic in approach and come from Interboro Partners with their work “The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion” and Dominic McGill with “We Are All Keynsians Now”.

Visualisation and Infographics at the London Transport Museum

Back in December I posted details of the new poster show at the London Transport Museum. Today, I was fortunate to have a spare hour to kill and this gave me a chance to fit in a rapid run around the exhibition.
I have taken a number of snaps of the main infographic/visualisation related pieces, both from the poster show and the general displays and you can access these from my Flickr account.

There was also the added bonus of a special exhibition called ‘Sense and the City‘ which includes a number of animated transport data visualisation installations produced by 422 South and the talented people at University College London CASA involving the likes of Martin Zaltz Austwick and Ollie O’Brien. I took a handful of brief videos of these works (which really don’t do them justice) – if the camera work is a little shaky, blame it on the school kids racing around me!

KeyLines: New network visualisation tool

Great to see a new post from Joe Parry (somebody whose work I have followed for a number of years) announcing the launch of his new venture Cambridge Intelligence and specifically the first product KeyLines “a cutting edge visualisation software which helps you see the networks in your data”.

KeyLines is an interactive software development kit which works on desktop, tablets and phones and across all major platforms. If the concept of a software development kit leaves some of you thinking “ah, it’s just for developers” you might be mistaken. Joe describes how KeyLines handles all the clever rendering of code and event handling leaving the developer to decide “what data should be shown and how”. Sounds great.

With a long list of customisable features this sounds like a really interesting addition to the ever growing landscape of data visualisation tools and resources (note: I’ve about 30 to add to this series very soon…).

Rather than just lift Joe’s carefully crafted descriptions it is probably best that you simply visit the site, read the blog, check out their new twitter feed and take a look for yourselves.