My top two picks were interchangeable until the very end and my top selection, in the end, reflected my slight preference for minimal design over maximal design.
1. Frieder Knauss
I can add very little to the appreciation circulating on this site except to say that Mr. K manages the hat trick of a) personal retrospection, b) data design, and (the rarity) c) editorial.
That he does this in several thousand fewer pixels than all of his competitors is to his credit, as is the vomit-themed color palette which he somehow sells as an element of his NCLB nausea.
2. Sam Shah
That Sam didn’t place speaks to the overall quality of the entire slate. From fonts to colors to axes and grids, none of his design choices cohere. Yet he tosses them all on the same wall with a stuffed buck and the whole thing looks like some kind of genius aneurysm. The herkyjerky, undistributed, unaligned tabs on his “Blog Hits” slide are a particular high point for me.