Lessons from Malofiej21: Less gratuitous illustration, more information and ever increasing standards for excellence

In Pamplona, a picturesque city in northern Spain, a week of infographic intensity has been completed. 1,191 entries (from 154 organizations in 28 countries) have been scrutinized, hours of lectures attended, a great deal of food and wine has been consumed, and I made my annual run at the world gin and tonic record.

So what did we learn?

Well in terms of the top awards, it was the usual contenders: National Geographic and the New York Times. Two powerhouse departments that for some time have dominated the competition. They win a lot of the prizes, but you can’t argue with the quality. Everyone should aspire to produce work of this calibre. You can see the full list of winners here. And see the golds here.

It’s good to see some less familiar names in there like El Telégrafo (Ecuador), and the South China Morning Post. Golden Section Graphics from Berlin are well known in the infographics community, but kudos to them for winning three golds. One of them is shown here.

The standard of the average infographic continues to rise. There was less gratuitous illustration, and more solid information. Yes, there were some very worrying data visualizations that seemed confused and confusing, but there were several brilliant examples too. When it’s done well (like anything), dataviz can be very effective. Especially when it has helpful pointers built in to help you understand where to begin, and what to look for.

The Best of Show/Online was won by the New York Times for its animated explainer on an Olympic hurdler: Lolo Jones, cleared for takeoff

The Miguel Urabayen Award for Best Map/Print also went to the New York Times for this gem on political shift (this is the online version): Counties blue and red, moving right and left
And the online map winner was ProPublica for its online map design tool: StateFace

National Geographic took “Best of Show/Print” for their stunning graphic about the terracotta warriors: An army for the afterlife.

And here’s another of their gold winners.

The result seemed to sit very well with the conference attendees. Of course, with an international infographic jury of this quality, you cannot argue the result. There is no better place to have your infographic work evaluated.

And… now to the apres-graphics activities. In an outrageous development, The Jumping Jester bar, that beloved symbol of fun for infographics people from around the world, has closed down. However, this did not derail the party, as the group decamped to The Clansman, with it’s faux medieval decor and the usual swimming-pool-sized gin and tonics. On the first evening of the conference, the bar staff were suddenly hit with a hundred drink orders. A lone regular sat bemused in the middle of heated discussions about html and pictograms. That poor guy is probably still having nightmares about proportional circles and cross-sections.