The “Napkin” Challenge

The design challenges here are a little different. You don’t have to be able to design!


We have two streams of entry for our competitions. One stream is for full, nice, shiny, multicoloured designs. The other is for sketches, scamps, proofs-of-concepts and hand-drawn or computer-drawn schematics. On the back of napkins, if you like. There are cash prizes for both.


We don’t believe information design and visualisation is completely a design form. We believe it’s also a form of journalism, story-telling & conceptualising. Many people lack the skills (and expensive software) to create a glossy infographic. But everybody has a brain and a pencil. Most people can conceive. Look for patterns. Have an idea. And frame it. But lots of people are locked out of the infographic field because they can’t design. We want as many people to contribute as possible. That’s why we’re allowing and rewarding ‘napkin entries’

Hold on though

There’s got to be some quality control. So here are some tips and guidelines for entry.
  • Prototype Your sketch has got to convey the idea. i.e. it’s got to be working. Someone else should be able to look at it and get the gist.
  • Self-sufficiency It’s got to be able to stand alone. To have a title, axis labels, a key or legend etc.
  • Directions You can write little annotations to explain how it will work or what certain things are.
  • Details We like details. And it’s helpful to carefully plot the data on your sketch. Helps you to see if it works or not.
  • Enjoy yourself! It’s really good fun to sketch. So make yourself a nice cup of tea in a nice mug and take your time.
» back to the challenges

Some examples of decent sketches

These are some drawn from David McCandless’ work on his book Information Is Beautiful. (You can see some more with commentary here) » back to the challenges