Second Place (tie): Paul Williams

[Important: see the retraction.]

Paul Williams. Tied for second place. The decision as explained by judge Christian Long:

Given the wide open nature of the contest’s focus on topic, slide sets that immediately won you over at first glance set the bar for all other submissions. Paul William’s opening slide — “I wasn’t born perfect” — showcased 2 vital elements for the judges:

  1. It was graphically sophisticated while
  2. turning upside down the “highlight your strengths” tendency that most admission directors tend to be flooded by (reference to the U. of Chicago 4-slide project that Dan’s contest grew out of).

As a judge, I was pulled into Paul’s story from the get-go, loving his irony and design aesthetic. Simultaneously, we were pleased to see the ‘story’ Paul hinted at unfolding slide-by-slide while being playful about the slide layouts at each turn. When themes are maintained while offering slight variations in techniques, the audiences’ interest remains piqued and confirmed: a great combination.

After much discussion, the only constructive critique the judges would offer to Paul would be that the content only hinted at his real story (and risked being too anonymous for an admissions team to take seriously) and that the color scheme of the last slide did not match the previous 3. We would suggest that each slide’s content could be sharpened in terms of a tangible detail and that ‘red’ could show up in the final slide, while ‘green’ could play a subtle role in slides 1-3. Beyond that, this was a first-class example of intentional design with an eye on pulling the audience forward into the story.

The judges invite Paul to deliver an acceptance speech here, perhaps correcting our speculation and explaining his design. Congratulations are in order either way.


  1. The Contest Announcement
  2. The Final Entries

Announcement Schedule:

  1. Second Place (tie): 09h00 PST
  2. Second Place (tie): 12h00 PST
  3. First Place: 15h00 PST
I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Congratulations Paul Williams! Great concept and great follow through. I think Dan is spot on with the critique. So many great entries. so hard to judge. Paul your 4 slides really do stand out visually!

  2. First of all can I say thanks to Dan, Scott & Christian for running & judging this contest and giving me the opportunity to show some of my skills and brains to all you folks out there.

    As far as my slide set for this contest I had a theme that I wanted to work from, the tale of the ugly ducking.

    Using images from Flickr that are Creative Commons licensed I tried to portray a journey where it doesn’t matter where you start or where you end up, it’s what goes on in-between that counts. For me that fits into so many things in life, and if I remember my times in school, really expresses how I feel now about my education.

    I also wanted to use the show to project a message of hope for people, some people may feel like they are eggs, trapped and very venerable, but when the shell is broken the real show begins (as the peacock displays his feathers).

    I agree with the judges about the thematic difficulties with colours, but I feel that impact of the last slide is greatest, as it is such as contrast to the other relatively close-up images.

    I really struggled with the wording for the final slide; the one used is one of several captions that I tried adding. I really wanted to say “look at me, I know this isn’t easy (life, school, work, etc) but we can all shine and be good at something, we just have to let ourselves”.

    The final thing I was aiming for with this slide set was to let people read what the slides were saying without having to look at each slide individually, I know this isn’t strictly necessary, but it helped me see the link between the slides, so therefore, it must be helpful to the viewer of the slides.

    As a soon to be trainee ICT Teacher, I am going to try and use this reflective, highly constrained but strangely liberating project idea somewhere if I can, and I have learnt some really nice design ideas from Ethan and the other competitors in the contest.

    Finally, congratulations to Ethan, and to all the other contestants that entered this contest, fantastic work done by one and all.