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2019 Competition Details

Data Visualization Competition

Show off your skills in communicating information visually!

Undergraduate and graduate students in good academic standing and currently enrolled at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign are eligible to submit an original data visualization.

All submissions must be a visual or graphic representation of data. The data you use can be quantitative, qualitative, textual, visual, geographic, and so forth. You must have permission to use the data in this competition. Two examples of data you would have permission to use are public data and data that you have collected yourself. If you are obtaining data from somewhere else, be sure the license agreement allows this use.

You must be involved in the creation of the visualization. If anyone helps you create it, you must obtain permission from them to submit the visualization in this competition.

Types of submissions:

  • If you submit a static image, it may be a hand-designed or computer-assisted chart, graph, illustration, drawing, infographic, or other data visualization that conceptualizes the unseen or recreates an object, process, or phenomenon, and may include text. For an example of a static image, download the .png file of Thomas Godinez’s submission from 2018.
  • If you submit an animated visualization, it may be constructed from photographs, illustrations, graphics, film, or digital visualizations, and may depict an object, process, phenomenon, or the natural world. These should not be documentaries or interviews. For an example of an animated visualization, see Alvin Sun’s submission from 2018.
  • If you submit an interactive visualization, it may be a web application or a smartphone or tablet app that requires user input. Entries must be self-guiding or include rules that explain the purpose, challenge, or goal of the interactive. Interactive visualizations should be usable free-of-charge, and compatible with Microsoft Windows or Mac OS, or for smartphone and tablet apps, both iOS and Android platforms. For an example of an interactive visualization, see Devin Oliver’s submission from 2018.

Feel free to browse all of last year’s submissions for inspiration.

Submissions must be made through the online submission form. Submissions open on August 26th, and close on October 6th at 11:59pm.

Please note the following:

  • You can only submit once, so pick your best visualization.
  • Titles should be limited to 20 words and should be descriptive of the visualization or its purpose.
  • Abstracts should be limited to 200 words, and should explain the background and importance of your visualization.
  • Accepted file formats:
    • Static images: pdf, jpg, gif, png, tif
    • Animations: Provide a link to YouTube or equivalent. Please do not upload a file using the submission form. Only the first five minutes of viewing will be evaluated.
    • Interactive visualizations: Provide a link to your interactive project (e.g., website, GitHub repository, Box folder, or equivalent). Please do not upload a file using the submission form. Only the first five minutes of using the interactive visualization will be evaluated.
  • You must agree to the following license agreement that allows the University of Illinois to display and provide access to your visualization:
    • I grant the University of Illinois non-exclusive and royalty-free permission to use my visualization and accompanying text in their original forms and/or modified forms for the purpose of promoting the competition and the projects taking place at the University, and I have the necessary rights, permissions, and/or licenses to grant the University these rights. I understand that this means that such materials, in their original forms and/or modified forms, may be incorporated in any and all media. If I wish to revoke permissions to use my visualization, I must do so in writing to the University Library.
    • By accepting this license, you still retain copyright to your work and do not give up the right to submit the work to publishers or other repositories. The University will clearly identify your name as the creator of the submission will not make any alteration, other than as allowed by this license, to your submission. By accepting this license, you acknowledge that you have read and agreed to the terms of this agreement and all related University policies.

Judging criteria

The judges will evaluate your visualization’s content, communication, and creativity. As you work on your visualization, consider the following questions.


  • Is the information and its visualization accurate?
  • Is the underlying data identifiable and authoritative?
  • Does the visualization have a specific focus? Does it tell a story or answer a question?
  • Is the visualization useful? Does it deepen understanding?


  • Does the visualization accurately represent the data?
  • Is the visualization clear and understandable to a non-specialist?
  • Does the visualization improve the audience’s ability to understand the concept or data?
  • If interactive, is the purpose and function intuitive?


  • Is the visualization thought provoking or novel?
  • Does it look interesting or appealing?
  • Does the visual make good use of basic design principles, e.g., alignment, balance, contrast, proximity, repetition, and white space?
  • Does the visual make good use of advanced design principles, e.g., harmony, emphasis, gestalt, pattern, movement, rhythm, proportion, and unity?

Our expert judges

  • Anita Say Chan, PhD
    Associate Professor
    Media and Cinema Studies
  • David Hopping, PhD
    Research Associate
    Department of Sociology
  • Angela Lyons, PhD
    Associate Professor
    Department of Agricultural & Consumer Economics
  • Julia Pollack
    Creative Program Manager
    Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

First place: $400
Second place: $100

Undergraduate and graduate student submissions will be judged separately, and there will be first and second place awards for each. All awards will be announced at the finale event on Tuesday, October 22nd.

All awards will be processed through University Financial Aid. Please note: Awards won may have an effect on your student financial aid eligibility. Questions regarding awards and their impact on student financial aid eligibility should be addressed to the Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA).

Awards may also be considered taxable income. The winner is responsible for any related taxes.

The Data Visualization Competition is generously sponsored by the Scholarly Commons, Center for Innovation in Technology and Learning, Illinois Informatics Institute, and Research IT.