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Information Is Beautiful Awards – Exemplary Book

The Exemplary Book Award was designed to recognize a critical piece of long-format writing published between 2019 to 2022, with the definition of ‘book’ being left quite wide. A book, for the purpose of this Award, may be a formally published manuscript (with a publisher or self-published), an eBook, a coffee table/art book, a comic, or any other text-based long-form publication that features data visualization prominently. 

The submitted works were evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Relevance in data visualization
  • Design excellence
  • Practical application
  • Novelty
  • Supplemental resources that enable practical application

The winner of the inaugural Exemplary Book Award is Data Sketches, by Shirley Wu and  Nadieh Bremer, a hybrid textbook and coffee table book that details the process behind 24 data visualization projects. 

Data Sketches was chosen because it “sets a new bar for data visualization books” according to the judging panel. While many books in the field of data visualization either teach or inspire, this year’s winner does both, focusing on the creative process coupled with technical insights. From hand-drawn sketches to code-generated output, this book gives anyone interested in data visualization (from beginners to experts) a deeper perspective on the art, science, and code behind exemplary visualizations by its two authors. (Read the Q&A with the authors)

The judging panel also granted an honorable mention of The Atlas of the Invisible by James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti. 

The book (read the Nightingale review) explores datasets about the world, including looking backward at historical stories and capturing happenings in data today, in an elegant book that is both informative for data visualization, design, and cartography enthusiasts and accompanied by a treasure trove of teaching resources with the potential to engage students to be more thoughtful readers and creators of maps and charts. 

In total, 30 unique books were nominated for the Exemplary Book Award. Some of those that were submitted did not meet the criteria to be assessed as a book. The ones below represent an exceptional set of resources in the data visualization canon. We have grouped the books by their primary mission: education, inspiration, or a report on a topic. 


Education

(nominated books that aim to teach about how we create and read data visualizations, from exploring fundamentals to reframing how and where we publish our charts.)

Better Data Visualizations by Jonathan Schwabish – “Written especially for people new to the field, Better Data Visualizations (BDV) has sparked a movement towards new, different, more engaging, and more effective data visualizations. An instructional guide, BDV has bridged the knowledge gap between novice users and more experience, technical practitioners.”

Functional Aesthetics by Bridget Cogley and Vidya Setlur (Nightingale review and Q&A with authors) – “This book bridges the academic rigor and the whys that researchers and theorists have explored in the field with that of the practitioners who have explored the hows through their skilled craft and practice as they communicate and share their work with the larger audience. It provides summaries of research findings along with useful advice for the practitioner.”

Fundamentals of Data Visualization by Claus Wilke – “The book distills all the research findings into an easy-to-understand format for visualization practitioners.”

Persuading with Data by Miro Kazakoff – “Persuading with Data helps bring data visualization into business communications classes. It situates data visualization within the framework of strategic communication by combining best practices in logical reasoning and presentation delivery.”

Seeing with Fresh Eyes by Edward Tufte – “This book offers fresh insights and ideas in presenting various types of data. The noted designer and typographer Erik Spiekermann noted that “Every new Tufte book opens up new thinking;” and “Seeing with Fresh Eyes” does just that””.  

The Big Picture by Steve Wexler – “Most organizations are drowning in data but are thirsty for understanding. This book teaches the basics of data visualization to have informed, intelligent discussions about data.”

Visualizing Complexity: Modular Information Design Handbook by Nicole Lachenmeier, Darjan Hil – “This book is the result of ten years of hands-on studio and teaching experience, experimenting and analyzing to make the challenging interface discipline of information design more accessible through simple principles.”


Inspiration

Nominated books that bring together examples across a range of topics or provide broad inspiration to data visualization creators through innovations in layout and design.

An Answer for Everything: 200 Infographics that Explain the World by Christian Tate, Rob Orchard, and Marcus Webb – “In a world where everyone seems to have an opinion on everything, the creators of An Answer For Everything seek out the indubitable, incontrovertible, cold hard facts to tell readers what the data says.”

Dieses Kleine Buch ist für dich by Barbara Avila Vissirini – “This is a German grammar book with an innovative visual approach to explaining the language to adults learning it as a foreign language.”

Graficos de Realidad by Germán Molina Pardo – “This book is a collection of visual thoughts or, in other words, of ideas transformed into images. Its purpose is precisely to contribute to reflection through a set of graphics to help us raise questions about the reality that surrounds us.”

I am a book. I am a portal to the universe. by Stefanie Posavec and Miriam Quick – “This is an all-ages book about data that does not mention the word ‘data’ even once (except in the author bios). There are no charts or graphics. Instead, the book blends experimental typography and traditional book design techniques with unconventional data visualisation to produce an info-book like none other.”

La Couleur des Choses by Martin Panchaud – “This is the first time that a novel is written with a visual language derived from infographic/data viz. Beyond conveying emotions, it also conveys a complex story with only infographics.”

Lorestry by Linda Craib (designer) and Emily Hogarth (illustrator) – “Lorestry is a digital baby book that includes data visualization to help improve health data literacy.”

Signals: The 27 Trends Defining the Future of the Global Economy by Jeff Desjardins – “Designed from scratch by the expert team at Visual Capitalist, Signals uses a data-driven approach to demonstrate straightforward, visually striking takeaways on the trends that will define the next decade of the global economy.”


Topical Report, Digital Publication, or Book

Nominated books that take the form of a report, digital publication, or other book-like formats to explore a specific topic. This includes books that feature data visualizations as a key part of their design and message.

A Guilty Pleasure by Xingwei Huang – “This visual essay aims to visualize how the monoculture cocoa industry is driving deforestation in the Ivory Coast. By drawing people’s attention to this issue, we would think about what’s the bittersweet price we’ve paid for each pound of chocolate?”

Amazonia Under Pressure by Alicia Rolla (Executive Coordination); Gustavo Faleiros (Editor); Beto Ricardo (Photo Editor); Bruna Keese and Julia Tranchesi (Graphic editor and design); Paula Ramón (Text); Tony Gross (Translation) – “”Amazonia Under Pressure 2020 took an X-ray of the main threats to the world’s largest tropical forest, and noted the progress of its deterioration.”

Atlante della Transformazione Digitale della PA by Gianni Sinni – “This book represents perhaps the first collaboration between a design university (Iuav University of Venice), and the Italian government (Department for Digital Transformation) to establish through the tools of user research and data visualization a common language between designers and civil servants. The purpose of the volume is to highlight how design tools can bring a better understanding of public services and stimulate public administration to take the path of change.”

Data Visualization, Dashboards, and Evidence Use in Schools: Data Collaborative Workshop Perspectives of Educators, Researchers, and Data Scientists by Alex J. Bowers and collaborators – “Educators globally are continually encouraged to use data to inform instructional improvement in schools, yet while there have been many recent innovations in data visualization and data science, educators are rarely included in dashboard co-design. This edited book details the results from a collaborative workshop through 28 chapters from authors who were attendees, including educators, data scientists, and researchers.”

Decoding Zodiac by Pratyush Bhattacharya – “The book provides the reader with an in-depth discussion and applicational knowledge of astrology and its relation to human psychology and biology as well.”

Do No Harm Guide: Applying Equity Awareness in Data Visualization by Jonathan Schwabish and Alice Feng – “This guide is a groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind resource for data communicators and visualizers on how to apply an equity awareness to the way data are analyzed and visualized.”

Mapping Affinities: Democratizing Data Visualization by Dario Rodighiero (Nightingale review) – “The book exemplifies mixed rhetoric in which visuals and texts are part of the same narrative. It originates from a doctoral thesis and is accessible and readable to the extensive design community.”

National Public Utility Council Annual Utility Decarbonization Report by Angel Lance, Govind Bhutada, Melissa Haavisto, Amy Kuo, Miranda Smith, Zack Aboulazm – “This report is an example of incorporating innovative visual design to make science more accessible to a general audience. It is a culmination of two years of work and research on the problem of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) that result from the production of energy, and the necessity to find creative, collaborative solutions to decarbonize the utilities industry in the next few decades”

Owomaniya! by Studio Ping Pong – “Owomaniya 2022 is a report on gender diversity in Indian entertainment, presented by Amazon Prime Video, India Film Companion, and Ormax Media, and designed by Studio Ping Pong, with copywriter, Nandita Singh, and developer, Studio Mesmer. Although not a ‘book’ in the traditional sense, this report is a publication in the shape of a microsite, which makes prominent use of data visualization to deliver its content more effectively.”

Sterne aus Gold by Simon Schabel – “The thinking behind Stars of Gold is based on various aspects, such as relevant stakeholders and the latest advances in technology and engineering in space. These observations of information are put into a new relevant context through the lens of economics as no one has seen them before.”

The Course of the War by Nadia Kelm, Natalka Haida – “A comics that retells the story of one of the most dramatic burials of the 19th century, the prominent Ukrainian poet, artist and public figure Taras Shevchenko. There are more than 1000 monuments to him, in 40 countries, but the main memorial is located in Kaniv, Ukraine, where he was re-buried due to his wish in the poem “Testament”. After his death in 1891 Shevchenko was buried in Russian Petersburg, but weeks later his friends arranged the transfer of his remains to Ukraine, to a place near Dnipro river. It is less known for the public how the decision was made and how the process was arranged, but the memories of eyewitnesses says that it was the story worthy of a script of a blockbuster.”


Thank you to those who submitted their nominations. Such a great list of inspiring works for 2023!

Author profile

Marília is an international relations analyst and communications specialist.

She is the founder of Global Diplomacy, a platform for those interested in understanding the world through research, data, and stories.

She is the Events Director of the Data Visualization Society.

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