Information Is Beautiful Awards – Test of Time

The Test of Time Award was inspired by the IEEE Vis Test of Time Award presented to a paper published ten years prior with a lasting impact on the field of data visualization. 

For this category, there were no media limitations as to what could qualify for the test of time as long as it has a proven connection to and impact on the field of data visualization. The only constraint was that the item itself must be a thing/work (not an individual), but must have a clear person(s) who can be named as the original creators of the work for the purpose of recognizing them. 

The judging panel evaluated the works based on three primary criteria: 

  • Pioneering
  • Impactful
  • Industry reach

The winner of the inaugural Test of Time Award is D3, an open-source Javascript library, credited to creators Mike Bostock, Jason Davies, and Philippe Rivière.

D3 had an immeasurable impact on how we create data visualizations. In the words of the judges, “since its humble beginnings in 2011, D3 has become inextricable from the data viz world. On a technical level, it’s brilliant; the stars and forks on GitHub attest to that. It is flexible, and it is limitless.” 

While many of the submissions have influenced branches or segments of the data visualization world, this year’s winner changed how millions of data visualizations are created across newsrooms, websites, and personal portfolios. As one judge remarked, “Where would the field of data visualization be today if D3 hadn’t appeared in 2011? Although the visualization of data has been with us for hundreds of years, the appearance of this platform really slingshotted the field into growth, diversification and creativity that has been unprecedented, beyond just the scope of those working with this tool.

By the numbers, more than a quarter of a million projects on GitHub are dependent on D3: Mike Bostock, the co-creator, has made 2,486 commits to the repository (that’s a rate of nearly 4 per week for the last 11 years). But what’s even more special is the community around it, with more than 123 contributors and countless more D3 experts online who are always happy to bring newcomers into the D3 fold. 

The nominees for this year’s Award included six additional works. Below are a couple of examples that had notable impacts on the field of data visualization:

Iraq’s bloody toll by Simon Scarr (South China Morning Post)

“Iraq’s bloody toll” was originally printed in the South China Morning Post newspaper in 2011 to mark the end of U.S. military engagement in Iraq.

At the time, the data visualisation won numerous awards for its simplicity yet hard-hitting design. However, year after year, it continued to be referenced in research papers, shown in learning materials, surface in online debates and is presented at major data visualisation presentations and conferences.

The impact of the visualisation is summarised here by Robert Kosara, Data Visualization Developer at Observable: “This chart of the number of deaths during the Iraq war has always given me a visceral response like no other, and it’s still as powerful as when it was made almost ten years ago.”

The David Rumsey Map Collection by David Rumsey 

David Rumsey started this collection 35 years ago. It has now more than 150,000 maps focusing on rare 16th through 21st century maps of North and South America, as well as world maps of Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. The collection includes atlases, globes, wall maps, school geographies, pocket maps, books of exploration, maritime charts, and a variety of cartographic materials including pocket, wall, children’s, and manuscript maps. 

As one of the nominees puts it “in addition to presenting very fine examples from familiar creators like Playfair, Minard, and Nightingale, his collection also reveals hundreds of data graphics from non-English creators (especially from eastern Europe and Asia) that were previously absent from the canon”. 

David Rumsey keeps the collection open to everyone under a Creative Commons License “representing the best of the open-information spirit of the early Internet”.

Wind Map by Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg

The Wind Map was created, on March 28th, 2012, with surface wind data from the US National Digital Forecast Database. This digital map makes visible the current wind speeds and patterns across the United States, with updates every hour.

According to one of the nominators, this chart “completely transformed weather maps. The way this visualization shows the wind was completely novel in 2012.” 

Thank you to all who submitted their nominations!

Marília is an international relations analyst and communication specialist.

She is the founder of Global Diplomacy, a collection of geopolitics and international relations resources for those who want to understand the world better.

Marília was the 2023 Outlier and Events Director and a Board Member of the Data Visualization Society (2022-2024).