CSE442 Data Visualization (Fall 2023)

The world is awash with increasing amounts of data, and we must keep afloat with our relatively constant perceptual and cognitive abilities. Visualization provides one means of combating information overload, as a well-designed visual encoding can supplant cognitive calculations with simpler perceptual inferences and improve comprehension, memory, and decision making. Furthermore, visual representations may help engage more diverse audiences in the process of analytic thinking.

In this course we will study techniques and algorithms for creating effective visualizations based on principles from graphic design, perceptual psychology, and cognitive science. Students will learn how to design and build interactive visualizations for the web, using the Vega-Lite and D3.js (Data-Driven Documents) frameworks.

In addition to class discussions, students will complete visualization design and data analysis assignments, as well as a final project. Students will share the results of their final project as both an interactive website and a video presentation.


Learning Goals & Objectives

This course is designed to provide students with the foundations necessary for understanding and extending the current state of the art in data visualization. By the end of the course, students will have gained:

Schedule & Readings

Week 1

Week 2

Tue 10/3 Data & Image Models Slides
Thu 10/5 Visual Encoding & Design Slides
Fri 10/6 Tableau Tutorial - 4:30-6pm (Gates G20 / Zoom)

Week 3

Tue 10/10 Deceptive Visualization & A1 Review (Michael Correll, Roux Institute) Slides
Assigned: Assignment 2: Deceptive Visualization (Due: Wed 10/18)

Week 4

Thu 10/19 Maps Slides
Assigned: A2 Peer Review (Due: Tue 10/24)
Assigned: Assignment 3: Interactive Visualization (Due: Tue 11/7)

Week 5

Thu 10/26 D3.js Deep Dive
  • REQUIRED Notebook: Introduction to D3, Part 2. (Note: we will work through this in class, but we encourage you to skim it ahead of time!)
  • REQUIRED Chapters 9, 10 in Interactive Data Visualization for the Web, 2nd Edition. Scott Murray.
Fri 10/27 Web Publishing Tutorial - 4:30-6pm (Zoom)

Week 6

Week 7

Tue 11/7 Prototype Demos Slides (TBD)
Assigned: A3 Peer Review (Due: Tue 11/15)
Assigned: Final Project (Multiple Due Dates)

Week 8

Week 9

Thu 11/23 Thanksgiving Holiday

Week 10

Tue 11/30 Final Project Feedback -- Playtest Day

Week 11

Thu 12/7 Final Project Showcase



Late Policy: You have two (2) total late days that you can apply as needed to turn in an individual assignment (A1, A2, Peer Reviews) after the due date without penalty. For example, you can submit A1 and A2 one day late, or submit just the A2 peer review two days late. Each project team also has an additional late day for A3. No late days are given for final project milestones. Beyond late days, we will deduct 10% for each day an assignment is late. Please contact the instructors on Ed Discussion prior to a deadline if you intend to apply your late days or if you would like to request additional accommodations.

Plagiarism Policy: Assignments should consist primarily of original work. Building off of others' work—including 3rd party libraries, public source code examples, and design ideas—is acceptable and in most cases encouraged. However, failure to cite such sources will result in score deductions proportional to the severity of the oversight.

Religious Accommodation: Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available here: Religious Accommodations Policy. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form.

Class Participation

It is important to attend the lectures (or if you are unable, to watch the recordings) and read the readings. Each lecture will assume that you have read and are ready to discuss the day's readings. Tuesdays are devoted to lectures and Thursdays to in-class exercises, which are included in participation grading. In-class activities are considered in terms of best effort rather than completion (in other words, did you try to complete the in-class exercise?).

In addition, we will post short quizzes to reinforce important concepts. The quizzes are counted under participation grades and are setup such that quiz grades should be a non-issue as long as students complete them in advance.


See the resources page for visualization tools, related web sites, and software development tips.


Questions should be posted on the course discussion site (Ed). If you have a private question, please email the instructors at cse442@cs or discuss it at office hours.