Data Visualization - Winter 2017

Exercise 1 - Etch a sketch

Develop a compelling story about the given data set and then design a visualization to accomplish it. Your design choices must have a rationale.

  • Data - README
  • Report - 1 page. Describe your visualization with a story. Your story may emphasize one of the many aspects for the data, mention which data was left out due to design or story. In the description include design choices of visual elements and data transformation or sorting. How do these decisions facilitate effective communication?
  • Tools - Paper/pen. No coding or vis application should be used for this exercise
  • Due Date - In class

Exercise 2 - Create a visualization

Develop visualization for a given data.

Exercise 3 - Apply color maps

Apply different color maps to your visualization solution for exercise #2

  • Note: If your exercise 2 solution does not use color in significant way, you must create a new visualization for exercise 2 data using any tool like d3js, Tableau, etc then perform the following tasks.
  • Task 1 - Apply different colormaps for your visualization from Exercise #2
  • Task 2 - Take screenshots of your original visualization from Exercise #2. Test them for three common color deficiency using one of the websites provided here. Rectify any problems encountered by changing colormap.
    • Note: If your original visualization has a single color or simple line plots, create a visualization in Tableau with color and test it for color deficieny
  • Report - Up to 3 pages. Discuss how colormap changes affect the effectiveness of visualization. Use side by side (or up and down) images of before and after color deficiency correction in the report. Interactivity is optional. Use multiple images as necessary. Refer to report format
  • Code not required for submission.
  • Tools - D3JS is recommended, or other tools you used for exercise#2
  • Due Date - Feb 4th, 1am PT Refer to submission instructions

Exercise 4 - Create a visualization

Develop visualization for a given data.

  • Data - README, olympics.csv, olympics.json You may augment the data to include additional information such as GDP, Population, etc.
  • Report - Up to 2 pages (anything beyond two pages will not be graded). Describe your visualization. The description must include the problem that your visualization is attempting to solve, the choice of visual elements and interaction. See report format
  • Tools - Tableau is recommended. However, you may use any programming language or software application for this exercise.
  • Due Date - Feb 4th, 1am PT Refer to submission instructions

Exercise 5 - Visualize a Network

Create a visualization of the provided sheep data. You may create either an adjacency matrix visualization, or a node-link visualization.

  • Data -, sheep_ml.graphml
  • Tools - Python NetworkX reccomended, D3 force layout may also be used (for node-link visualization).
  • Report - Up to 2 pages. Discuss the expressiveness and effectiveness of your chosen visual idiom. Describe any findings that can be identified or learned from the visualization. See report format
  • Notes - The edge weights are non-symmetric, meaning that the network has directed edges. You are NOT required to visualize the weights on both directions of each edge as this can get very complicated (specifically with node-link visualizations). You are allowed to simply pick one value for each edge.
  • Grading - Since implementing interativity with NetworkX solutions is a significant challenge, for NetworkX solutions without interactivity, interactivity points will be awarded in one of two ways:
    • If the data is augmented (i.e. extra properties of the data are computed and used for visualization) the interactivity portion of the grade will be assigned to the expressiveness and effectiveness of the visualization of this augmentation (please also discuss the augmentation in your report).
    • Otherwise, the interactivity points will be evenly split between the effectiveness and report sections (making them 40% and 30% respectively). This means if you choose not to use interactivity or augmentation, please put extra attention into your report and the justification of the effectiveness of the choices you made in your visualization.
  • Due Date - Feb 18th, 1am PT Refer to submission instructions

Exercise 6 - Case Study

Present a research paper (not a blog) or a book chapter (not from VAD textbook) on visualization (Recommended option).


Identify and analyze two existing visualizations. Present them to the class, discussing their design, utility, key strenghts and weakness. Refer to chapter 15 in the textbook for how to deconstruct the visualization and present it as case study.

Note: Indicate your case study selection on piazza and google spreadsheet. Do not choose anything that has been already taken by others.


  • 10 mins (Presentation) + 5min (QA/discussion). Time limit will be enforced
  • Presentation will be graded
  • Single laptop will be used for presentation


  • Slide format: Powerpoint (avoid animations) or PDF document.
  • Title slide: Include Visualization(s)/paper title with links and your name.
  • Make the slides self contained such that if the web link does not work you could still present.
  • Due Date - Feb 18th, 1am PT

Below are a list of sample ideas, although you are not constrained to select from this list. You may pick other visualizations that represent sufficiently complex data. Please avoid choosing trivial visualizations, email us well in advance of deadline if you have any questions on eligibility of your visualization choice for the case study.

Exercise 7 - Fix a graphic/visualization

Select at least two visualizations from different categories from the given list. Identify any problems, then recreate the visualization to fix them.

  • List of graphic / visualization
  • Report - One page per visualization. Describe the problem in chosen graphic and how your solution fixes it. Discuss the expressiveness and effectiveness of your solution. Include side-by-side image of chosen vs your visualization. Interactivity is optional. Refer to report format
  • Tool - Use any tool you like, even MS Excel.
  • Code not required for submission.
  • Due Date - Mar 4th, 1am PT Refer to submission instructions

Exercise 8 - Geospatial and Temporal Visualization

Create a visualization to explore the incidents of West Nile Virus across geography (California counties) and time (2006-2015). Discuss the expressiveness and effectiveness of your visualization based on design choices. Identify and report any conclusions drawn about the spread of the virus from your visualization.

Exercise 9 - Conceptual visualization design

This exercise poses a challenge to systematically develop visualization designs in abstract form for given data attributes and analyze those designs.

  1. What to do?

There are 9 sheets each corresponding to a different set of given data attributes. You are expected to come up with one design and its analysis for each sheet. A sample has been provided in sheet #1 and 2. The key aspects of the visualization needs to be broken down into What, Why and How. This is a purely design exercise thus an implementation in not needed. You may use the textbook as a reference.

  1. How to do?

  2. Download the exercise worksheet from here. Rename this file as exercise9-design-Firstname-Lastname.xlsx
  3. Each student is assigned a randomly generated ID (to be kept anonymous).
  4. For each sheet develop a visualization design and analysis. Fill your solution in the corresponding column with your assigned ID.
  5. Email your design solution worksheet to the TA with filename as exercise9-design-Firstname-Lastname.xlsx. Use email subject as “Exercise 9 design submission”
  6. Duration ~ 60 mins

  7. Design compilation

Designs from all students will be compiled into the master sheet.

  1. After completing all worksheets copy all your designs in the corresponding design column with your assinged ID in the master worksheet here.
  2. Duration: 10 mins

  3. Reviewing

The assignment is peer-graded

  1. Download master design sheet from here. Rename this file as exercise9-review-Firstname-Lastname.xlsx
  2. Each student will be asked to review and score two specific designs for each sheet, hence a total of 18 designs will be reviewed.
  3. The reviews will be assigned during the class. For example you may be asked to review design 2, 4 in Sheet 5, design 18, 19 in Sheet 6 and so on.
  4. Email your reviewed worksheet to the TA with filename as exercise9-review-Firstname-Lastname.xlsx. Use email subject as “Exercise 9 review submission”
  5. Anonymity must be maintained while grading.
  6. Duration: ~ 60 mins

  7. Review compilation

Reviews from all students will be compiled into the master sheet.

  1. After completing review of all assigned worksheets copy all your reviews in the cells corresponding to your Reviewer A/B ID (this is different from your design columns) in the master worksheet here.
  2. Duration: 10 mins

Report Format

  • Must be written in third person narrative style
  • Letter size page 8 1⁄2 in × 11 in
  • One inch margin on all sides
  • Font: Times New Roman, size 11pt or 12 pt, you may use larger font size up to 14pt for headings.
  • Include your name in header section
  • Title in form: “Exercise NN Report: Brief title for the visualization”
  • PDF (recommended) or Microsoft Word ONLY
  • Sample Report

Exercise Grading Rubric

  • Expressiveness of design (30%)
    • Match between choices of visual encodings with properties of data.
    • Choice of encodings based on the importance of the data.
    • How well the design expresses facts?
  • Effectiveness of the solution (30%)
    • Does the solution communicate and support the intended idea?
    • Are the encodings used perceptually effective?
    • Is the data used comprehensively or augmented?
  • Interaction support in solution (20%)
    • Does the solution support comparison, selection, filtering, linking, etc? For non programmatic solutions this weight is added to expressiveness and effectiveness
  • Report (20%)
    • Does the report provide motivation for the visualization?
    • Is there a clear description of the problem/tasks your visualization is attempting to solve?
    • Is the choice of visual encodings explained and justified in terms of expressiveness of dataset attributes? Refer Chapter 5.4.1 in Munzner
    • Is the choice of visual encoding explained and justified in terms of effectiveness of channels? Refer Chapter 5.4.1 in Munzner
    • Finally, does the visualization accomplish solving the problem or tasks that were identified?
    • Sample Report
  • Bonus (up to 10%)
    • Outstanding submissions may receive up to 10% bonus. Late submissions are not eligible for bonus points.
  • Late submission Incurs 20% penalty after the deadline, there after additional 20% penalty per week. Final project must be submitted by deadline (no exceptions).

Submission Instructions

  • All exercises submissions should be emailed to the TA: (not to the instructor) before 1 am on the day of class.
  • Submissions should contain a folder of all files required to run your visualization in addition to a report in PDF format.
  • Submissions without the report will not be graded.
  • Your submission must be organized in a folder as follows. Zip and send it via email, if larger than 10 MB share it on public cloud (timestamps will be checked to ensure timely submission)
    • exerciseN-Firstname-Lastname/
      • Report document named as “exerciseN-Firstname-Lastname.pdf”
      • Code/Application
        • readme.txt - explaining how to run your visualization (external dependencies, Python 2 vs. 3, etc.)
        • index.html (or
        • data.csv, etc
        • Other folders for scripts / data / code as needed