Bogdan and Stephanie Yamkovenko won The Economist-Nielsen Data Visualization Challenge, which asked the World to review Nielsen consumer data, generate insightful conclusions with broad implications, and present a compelling visual presentation of the most interesting ideas from the data. Over 4,000 Solvers from 101 countries signed up to participate in the Challenge. To view the Yamkovenko’s winning submission, a video of them presenting it at The Economist World in 2013 Festival, and profiles of all the Challenge finalists, please click here.
We saw an advertisement in The Economist for the Data Visualization Challenge sponsored by Nielsen and The Economist. The focus of the Challenge was to analyze a data set provided by Nielsen and to tell a story using data visualization. I am a journalist and have also done graphic design in the past, so I knew I could handle the visual story telling. Bogdan is a researcher and assistant professor with an affinity for statistics, which means that he could easily handle the data analysis.
Bogdan and I have been married for six years and had never previously collaborated professionally on a project. This Data Visualization Challenge was a great opportunity for us to combine our skills and, ultimately, be competitive.
We began our work on the Challenge with a brainstorm about the Nielsen global dataset, which consisted of the Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index and other data about consumer spending and purchasing habits. We decided to supplement the dataset with other widely available economic indicators (such as unemployment rates). We noticed that countries that had high confidence in their economies were not necessarily the best performing economies.
When working on my master’s degree in journalism, I developed an appreciation for my profession’s role as the “fourth estate.” As we looked at the confidence index, we noticed that countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt had high confidence, but their economies weren’t doing that great. We wondered whether democracy was playing a role in the citizens’ confidence. We decided to include the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index in our analysis, and found that countries with the highest confidence also had the most restricted press. This finding gave us a compelling story to tell and gave the original Nielsen dataset more context and depth.
We were both impressed with InnoCentive and how easy it was to submit a solution. It is really a great platform for allowing individuals to work on solving problems outside of the usual confines of their jobs. It is also a great way to spark collaborations among people who may have never otherwise worked together on projects.
If you are working on a solution for an InnoCentive Challenge, we have two pieces of advice: 1) don’t be afraid to do something unique, it might end up being just what the Seeker is looking for, and 2) use your past experience and skills to your advantage. Neither of us are artists or designers, yet we won the Data Visualization Challenge because we found a way to solve it by playing to our strengths.