Dataviz awards are great for you, even if you don't submit anything
Can an award change your career?
These past few weeks, there have been many discussions around awards in our community. They were sparked by the upcoming Information is Beautiful (IIB) 2022 awards ceremony — probably the most famous competition for dataviz practitioners, now organised by the Data Visualisation Society (DVS). So this begs the question: is it good to have awards for data visualisation? What are the pros and cons? What’s in it for you?
NB: As I’m writing this, the winners of IIB 2022 awards haven’t been publicly announced yet. By the time this message arrives to your inbox though, they will have been (the ceremony takes place at night UTC time).
The good and the bad
Let’s face it: no awards are perfect, and the IIB contest is no exception. One of the trickiest things about it is the barrier to entry — you have to pay a certain amount of money to submit a piece. If you can’t afford it, you can’t win. This creates a bias towards individuals and institutions who have higher levels of income and hence get a leg up. That being said, DVS did offer discounts and some free entry options for those who needed it this, hopefully levelling out the playing field a little bit.
On the bright side, the awards can be good for you as a practitioner or an organisation. If you’re a dataviz designer or developer, it provides you with social proof — you can show your potential clients or employers that you produce good work which is recognised and appreciated by the community. For your organisation, it can provide more financing or grant opportunities.
There’s more to be said on both sides of the argument. For an in-depth conversation on the topic, including some alternative ideas for the structure of the awards, I encourage you to listen to this conversation from the Elevate team. Now, let’s talk about why the awards have phenomenal value to you — even if you don’t win, and even if you don’t submit anything.
What’s in it for you
Does the good of the awards outweigh the bad? I think it does. By far. Most pieces submitted for IIB awards are showcased on their website.
Just let that sink in for a minute.
Hundreds of projects. All the best work in the data visualisation field, from all over the world, in one place. It’s a goldmine! It allows you to browse almost endlessly for inspiration, to discover pieces from organisations and countries that you would have never stumbled upon otherwise. So whether you submit a piece of work and get a medal for it or not, you still win.
I know I found so many outstanding visualisations and stories on the showcase that inspired me and even taught me new design techniques. I’ll show you just one example you should absolutely take a look at — the long-form data story called “Why did the Kursk sink?”. It’s a beauty!
I also encourage you to check out the physical dataviz project I had the honour to work on with the Social Justice Centre and Data4Change last year. This projects pushes the boundaries of data collection and visualisation, and can inspire you to be more creative. It has been shortlisted, and in the case of an award, all the recognition and prize benefits would go to this amazing civil society organisation in Nairobi. Keep your fingers crossed for them!
Exploring the showcase itself can be a little overwhelming though. But don’t worry, I got you! Here’s an easy list of steps for you to follow:
Go to the IIB awards website
Click on “Entry Showcase”
Longlist, shortlist or winners
Click on the image to read more about a given project
Click on the links inside the projects to see the original piece
And most importantly, enjoy!
Awards can change your career. Even if you don’t submit anything, or do but don’t win, you still benefit from having access to a treasure trove of diverse visualisation projects. I hope they’ll inspire you to learn and try new things!
Thank you for reading this edition of The Plot. I’ll see you again in two weeks for the last newsletter of 2022, in which we’ll talk about the best data and design books I read this year!
Information Design: Storytelling with Data in Illustrator - a great online course by the fabulous Valentina d’Efilippo;
Are you press worthy? - a beautiful data story;
Buried signals — a compilation of some of the best narrative visualisations and information design pieces.
Did you know that I run my own data design studio called Parabole? 📡 If you like The Plot and my approach to data storytelling, do reach out to us for design projects, trainings or consulting services. Just shoot me an email at email@example.com and we’ll get things going! See you soon :)