Visualization Challenge 2010

Informational Graphics

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Science  18 Feb 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6019, pp. 850-851
DOI: 10.1126/science.331.6019.850

1st Place

Introduction to Fungi

Kandis Elliot ▪ Mo Fayyaz University of Wisconsin, Madison

For senior artist Kandis Elliot, postermaking is one of the best tasks of the job. Her series of educational posters started 4 years ago, when greenhouse and garden director Mo Fayyaz of the University of Wisconsin (UW), Madison, asked for a fruit poster. Introduction to Fungi is just the latest—and one of the hardest, because the botany department lacks a mycologist. And Elliot didn't want to settle for a simple mushroom poster. “There's a gazillion of those things,” Elliot says. “We wanted something that shows fungi as mushrooms but something more than mushrooms. Your beer, your wine, and your bread. The stuff on the back of your fridge.”

The beer and wine are easy enough to spot in the center of this poster. Other specimens include gourmet delicacies, such as truffles and the mold on bleu cheese, and the less savory stinkhorns, whose stench attracts carrion beetles to disperse their spores. It also features some unfriendly fungi, such as the culprit behind white-nose syndrome, a mysterious white fungus that grows on hibernating bats and seems to kill them by leading to starvation.

“The fungi poster was a clear winner. That was just amazing,” says panel of judges member Alisa Zapp Machalek. Besides the imagery, the fact that it was about fungi had an appeal of its own. “There's sort of an innate intrigue factor. If it was different kinds of apples, even though I love apples, I don't know that it would hold our attention as much.” “It's very appealing to the layperson,” says panel of judges member Corinne Sandone. “There's nothing that hard. It's very accessible.”

That's valuable praise for Elliot, who says squeezing all the information in was one of the hardest parts. “There's like 25 pounds of information on a 5-pound poster, and you want to put it in some kind of logical order,” she says. “There is order in there, but you kind of have to search for it.”

Honorable Mention

Everyone Ever in the World

Peter Crnokrak The Luxury of Protest

The poster represents roughly what the title says: every person who lived and died on the planet, from 3200 B.C.E. to 2009 C.E. The total paper area represents the 78 billion people who lived over the past 5000 years. The gaping hole in the center represents every person who died in a major war, genocide, or massacre: approximately 969 million people, or 1.25% of the total number of people who have ever lived on the planet.

Text is printed in transparent ink on plastic (shown as white on black, right). The circles at the top represent the number of conflicts per millennium with more than 1000 deaths, and the circle of text lists them by name. The bottom circle represents the expected number of conflicts in the next millennium if the escalating pattern continues.

Human life is one of the few values that's almost always given as an absolute (1100 died in a flood in Pakistan; 20 million Russians died in World War II), says Peter Crnokrak of The Luxury of Protest design studio in London. Framing deaths as a percent of those who ever lived, he says, might risk degrading the value of individual life. But he says he wanted to create something thought-provoking, and the judges say he succeeded.

“People have made the case that we need to bring more artists and poets into the science process to explain the results,” says panel of judges member Tom Wagner. “And I think a poster like that achieves that goal.

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