VizUM Visualization Competition

Your City, Your Neighborhood, and You

Visualization for Civic Engagement 
For questions regarding the contest, please don’t hesitate to email


Objective and Overview

The goal of this competition is to challenge designers, journalists, data scientists, statisticians, and professionals and scholars in any other field to design either:

•  A data visualization essay, story, or infographic based on publicly available data about Miami, or
• An exploratory data visualization.

These are a few examples of “infographics” and stories told through graphs, charts, and maps, either static or interactive:

Population change in Brazil | Driving times to abortion clinics | Failure Factories

And these are examples of exploratory data visualizations, intended to let the public analyze complex data at will, through menus, filters, etc.:

DimStiller | MizBee | LineUp

Data is transforming many areas of our lives. Industries that have not historically relied on data are now increasingly interested in capitalizing on it. No matter which path you plan to pursue, data manipulation, analysis, visualization, and communication skills will give you a competitive advantage.

For these reasons, we felt it was important to provide an opportunity to our community to participate in the data revolution, though the vehicle of our annual VizUM Symposium. We see the VizUM Visualization competition as an opportunity for you to learn new skills, create beautiful pieces that you can add to your portfolio, and increase public understanding about relevant issues.

The first annual VizUM competition calls all city dwellers to dive deep into data shared by Miami-Dade County and produce visual products—either visual stories or exploratory visualizations—that speak to their fellow citizens, calling their attention to topics that matter, and call them to action.

We have specifically and deliberately designed this competition so that you don’t have to be a visualization wizard to enter, and you have a reasonable chance of becoming a finalist!


What’s in it for you?

•  You may want to use this competition as an opportunity to teach yourself how to use a new tool or learn a programming language.
•  You may want to use this competition because you know that you are the best, and you have your eye on one of the prizes.
•  You may want to use this competition to call your fellow citizens to action on an issue that is important to you, because you want to make a difference.

No matter what your motivation is, welcome!



You must use datasets from at least one of the following three sources:

•  Miami-Dade County’s Open Data Portal

•  Miami-Dade County’s GIS Data Library

•  City of Miami Building Permits Data

•  City of Miami Open Data Portal (beta / includes budget and permit data)

We will refer to this as your « city or county » dataset.

You may combine the city or county datasets that you choose with any other open data that you can find, such as Census Bureau data, Google Trends/search data, Twitter or other social network data, data from the State of Florida, the U.S. Federal Goverment Open Data Portal, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, the United Nations Data Retrieval System, or data from the World Council on City Data Open Data Portal. We will refer to this as your « additional » dataset.

If you do choose to bring in an additional dataset, please keep in mind that you will need to provide the details of how you performed the merging operation in your submission.


Timeline and Important Dates

November 16, 2017 Official launch of the 2017-2018 VizUM Competition
February 4, 2018 Last day for teams or individuals to register by completing the Registration Form
March 9, 2018* Idea Checkpoint
(final date will be announced to participants via email)
May 8, 2018* Analysis & Prototype Checkpoint | Please RSVP
(final date will be announced to participants via email)
July 23, 2018 by 8:00 PM DEADLINE for submission of your final Visualization
Please use the Submission Form
November 15, 2018 2018 VizUM Symposium finalists display their work

*In-person events, where you’ll have the opportunity to get feedback on your project from the organizing team.  These are excellent opportunities to meet the other participants!



•  Your final product should be either a visual essay/story/infographic, or an exploratory data visualization. Refer to the introduction of this document for examples of both types of deliverable.

•  The contest is open to everyone: professionals or data visualization amateurs, regardless of age, race, occupation or any other categories.

•  Any tools are accepted. Although we encourage the use of open-source tools, you may use any tool that you like for your analysis and final visualization.

•  No programming is required, although programming is encouraged as it will give you a considerable advantage.

•  You may use different tools for the different parts of your project. For example, you may start with R and RStudio for the analysis, and then use Inkscape or Shiny when the time comes to create the final visualization.

•  If you are forming a team, the team should not exceed 3 members, with clearly separated tasks that are carefully outlined in your registration form, as well as in your final submission.

•  You may use any resources available to you in teaching yourself what you need in order to complete your project. This includes any Coursera or edX courses, Hadley Wickham and Garrett Grolemund’s R for Data Science book, any other book, or advice from those with more experience.

•  If you do seek advice from those with more experience, from a professional programmer or designer, make sure to give them due credit in your submission document’s Credits section.

•  If you are using spatial data, you may use any base maps that you wish, as long as they are open-source. OpenStreetMap tiles and Google Maps tiles are allowed.

•  If you are using spatial data, you may use any base maps that you wish, as long as they are open-source. OpenStreetMap tiles and Google map tiles are allowed.

•  You may submit interactive visualizations, for example an interactive web app created with Shiny. It doesn’t need to be hosted on a webpage, you may simply share your files with us so that we can open it using a browser.

•  If you decide to design a visual essay, story, or infographic, and don’t want to make it Web-based or interactive, you can submit it in PDF format, as a printable poster. There are no restrictions in terms of format or size, although try to stick to formats that commercial printers can print.

•  If you decided to design an interactive data exploration, it should provide representation of the data that assist the user to: explore and interact with the data, make informative conceptual model of the data, and extract the story the data is trying to tell them. To achieve these high-level goals, your interactive visualization is required to support: (simultaneous) attribute visualization and interactive filtering or refinement. You are encouraged to use linking and brushing techniques or any other visualization technique you see fit. A good guideline to design powerful interactive data visualization system is Shneiderman’s Mantra.

•  If you decided to design an interactive data exploration, you can provide a preview video as your submission. Your video should provide a comprehensive overview of your interactive visualization. Narration on the video is allowed and encouraged. The video cannot be longer than 5 minutes. The maximum allowable file size for your video is 300MB. The video should be MPEG-4 file format using H.264 encoding with the resolution 1280 x 720px, at 24 to 30 frames/s.



Please use this Submission Form to submit your project.

Whether you choose to create a visual essay/infographic, or an interactive data exploration tool, you need to submit the following, in separate documents. The required submission format is listed in parentheses:

Motivation & Findings (.pdf) : In 350 words or less, describe why the issue that you are addressing is important, and the major takeaways from your analysis and visualization.

Methods & Acknowledgements (.pdf) : In 750 words or less, describe the procedures that you used in your analysis and visualization. This should include any procedures that you used in data preparation, in sufficient detail that all procedures can be repeated. You may separate the procedures with appropriate headings. The acknowledgements section should include the names and contributions of anybody outside of you or your team who helped with any part of your project.

GitHub repository containing any data preparation and analysis code you used (link entered directly into the submission form).

In addition, for visual essays or infographics, please submit:

The project itself (.pdf), or

Files needed to load an unhosted web app, or

A link to a website that hosts your project.

For interactive data explorations, please submit:

Files needed to load an unhosted web app, or

A link to a website that hosts your interactive data exploration, or

A preview video as described in the Rules section.

Finally, if you are submitting as a team, you need to complete only one submission form. In this case you will be asked to include a file that lists your:

•  Team contributions (.pdf) : In 200 words or less, please describe the contributions of each member of your team.

Please use the following naming convention for all files:

• Organization abbreviation

• Your first name or your team’s name

• Keyword that describes your project and file type.

For example, if your organization is “University of Miami”, your name is Maria, and you looked into traffic violations then the file name should be um_maria_traffic.pdf.

Please note that if you are a finalist, we will ask you to share any additional files not included with your submission that are a part of your project.

Once you have submitted your entry, you will receive a receipt email confirming your submission.



There will be two prizes, one for the “Best Visual Essay, Story, or Infographic”, and one for the “Best Exploratory Data Visualization”.

In the Visual Essay, Story, or Infographic category:
1st place     $1,000
2nd place   $250
3rd place   Honorable Mention

In the Interactive Data Exploration category:
1st place     $1,000
2nd place   $250
3rd place   Honorable Mention

Awards will be decided in two rounds. In the first round, each submission will be carefully judged by five visualization experts. The judges will consider both your analysis and visualization, in the following five dimensions. Each dimension operates on a 5-point scale, and in all dimensions a higher number represents a better score.

1. Compelling visualization (i.e. calls the viewer to action). How well does your visualization communicate the importance of the issue and how lives are affected?

2. Appropriate use of statistical, visualization, or algorithmic tools in making inference related to the issue that is explored. Do your results support your conclusions and the message of your visualization?

3. Appropriate documentation of the methods. Does your methods submission include enough details to be able to reproduce the project, given your shared code?

4. Clarity of message. How much do you avoid ambiguity in delivering the message? Does the viewer have to dig deep and rely on their own interpretation to understand your message or to be impacted by your visualization?

5. Appropriately handles uncertainty, for example by communicating limitations either of the data or the methods. Your conclusions and take home messages strike an appropriate level of balance between delivering a powerful message and avoiding unfounded generalizations.

In the second round, finalist projects will be shared openly to enable voting by social media, bringing in the voice of the public.

Only entries submitted by the deadline July 16, 2018 will be considered. Awards will be presented at a ceremony organized soon thereafter.

All finalists will be showcased at the 2018 VizUM Symposium.




Daniel Cohen VizUM 2018 Competition Judge Daniel Cohen, Senior Vice President, Digital Payments & Labs for MasterCard Latin America and the Caribbean.
Mr Cohen is responsible for leading the development and commercialization of innovative payment solutions that can be used at the check-out counter, via the web, mobile phone, tablet, and beyond. Previously, Daniel headed Mastercard’s operations in Israel as Country Manager. He was responsible for opening Mastercard’s first office in the country and expanding the company’s local payments footprint. During his time as Country Manager, he led the commercialization of breakthrough innovative payment solutions in the electronic and mobile commerce space. Daniel began his career at Mastercard in 2007, leading prepaid card program initiatives across the globe out of the company’s headquarters in Purchase, New York. Prior to joining MasterCard, he was a Strategy Consultant for BTS where he managed corporate strategy projects for Fortune 500 companies.
Carlos Martinez de la Serna VizUM Visualization Competition judge Carlos Martinez de la Serna, Director of Innovation | Univision
I’m passionate about driving social change and creating new opportunities for inclusion, learning and empowerment. With a background in journalism and design, I have worked on media and technology based in the US, Spain and Japan. I’ve combined this work with regular teaching and research. I am currently a research fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, and a former JSK Fellow at Stanford University..
Cameron Riopelle VizUM 2018 Competition Judge Cameron Riopelle, Data Science Librarian | UM Libraries
In addition to his background in statistics and social scientific methods, Cameron has expertise in oral history and historical-archival research, having worked on the Veteran’s History Project at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress, indexing and accessioning labor leader John L. Lewis’s personal documents at the Lee-Fendall House Museum, and his own dissertation on 20th century indigenous peoples’ resistance to assimilationist efforts in Canada. He has also been actively involved in field archaeological and historical archaeological projects, and has longstanding interests in creative writing and folk music.
Mike Sarasti VizUM 2018 Competition Judge Michael Sarasti, Chief Innovation Officer | City of Miami
Mike is the City of Miami’s Chief Innovation Officer, a new position charged with driving innovation, process improvement, collaboration, and customer service across municipal government. Throughout his career serving Miami’s residents, Mr. Sarasti has been instrumental in the advancement of civic services, 311 technology, and open data. He has more than a decade of government experience evaluating government processes, analyzing performance metrics, understanding user needs and improving the usability of resident services. Over the years, he has built relationships with key partners such as Code for America, the White House’s United States Digital Service (USDS), the Knight Foundation, various local universities, and others throughout Miami’s civic tech community. On his personal time, he also writes, produces, and performs in the electro-experimental-rock duo Raker.





Organizing Committee Members

Alberto Cairo PhD, Professor of Professional Practice / Knight Chair in Visual Journalism | UM School of Communication
Maria Galli Stampino PhD, Professor of French and Italian | College of Arts & Sciences
Mahsa Mirazargar PhD, Assistant Professor | Department of Computer Science | UM College of Arts & Sciences
Athina Hadjixenofontos PhD, Director of Engagement | UM Center for Computational Science



R Studio logo Socrata logo The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation logo


University of Miami Center for Computational Science VizUM Visualization Competition 2018 Flyer

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