• 08.05.10

Reminder: Inception Infographics Contest Ends August 15th!

Can you design a chart that elegantly explains the most complicated movie of the summer?

Reminder: Inception Infographics Contest Ends August 15th!

[We’re reposting our original contest announcement, since the deadline is quickly approaching. Pictured above: Leo, wracking his brain over his entry.]


Inception, Christopher Nolan’s trippy popcorn shoot-em-up about dreams within dreams, was pretty much made for an infographic. In fact, that movie, with its many layers of dreamers inhabiting the mind of other dreams, could probably have benefited from a running infographic right in the corner of the frame. Unfortunately, the infographics that have been created around the movie so far are all lacking.

Which is why we’re seeking the best infographic you can design that explains the the plot of inception. Winner gets a full-set of all four of Edward Tufte’s books, as well as both Dataflow 1 & 2, which are the holy bibles of today’s infographics scene. All told, those books retail for around $350.

Our contest was inspired by two interesting examples, among a slew of faux-infographics that are already out there. The first is by Dehahs, and it shows fairly well the various dream sequences that occur in the movie.

The little lines around the perimeter of the chart show who’s still dreaming as the movie progresses. The drawings on the right edge show the four major dream sequences, while those on the left add the corresponding “kick” moments. The never ending staircase illusion used here does nod to a scene in the movie, but it doesn’t accurately portray the plot, which has an ending that doesn’t link back to the beginning.

Still, if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t have the patience to wade through some pretty complex visual detail that appears inspired by the 1982 video game Zaxxon, it’s almost impossible to make sense of this chart.


This simple flow chart, by Sean Mort, does a bit more with less. It visualizes the various characters still alive in each of the dream levels, and marks the dream levels by simple pictogram backgrounds:

But it doesn’t illustrate too much about the movie that you wouldn’t know from watching, and it lacks all the fun mind-bending philosophical questions raised by the movie–including what the ending really means.

So the challenge is this: Create a chart that explains the movie to a layman. You’ll probably have to use some words to explain basic concepts from the movie, but keep these to a minimum. This is an infographic after all.

Please send in your entries to by August 15th at noon, with the subject line: I Am The Architect. The image should be a jpeg that is at least 850 pixels wide. We’ll announce the winner soon after, and perhaps post some intriguing submissions along the way.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!


Be sure to read all the contest rules.

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.