CSE512 Data Visualization (Spring 2021)

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 for creating effective visualizations based on principles from graphic design, perceptual psychology, and cognitive science. The course is targeted both towards students interested in using visualization in their own work, as well as students interested in building better visualization tools and systems.

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

Thu 4/1 Data & Image Models Slides

Week 2

Tue 4/6 Exploratory Data Analysis Slides
Thu 4/9 A1 Review & Design Activity Slides
Assigned: Assignment 2: Exploratory Analysis (Due: Mon 4/26)

Week 3

Mon 4/12 Tableau Tutorial - 4:30pm-5:30pm via Zoom (Optional)

Week 4

Week 5

Thu 4/29 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!)
  • Optional Chapters 9, 10 in Interactive Data Visualization for the Web, 2nd Edition. Scott Murray.

Week 6

Week 7

Thu 5/13 A3 Review & Critique Slides
Assigned: Final Project Proposal (Due: Wed 5/19)

Week 8

Week 9

Week 10

Thu 6/3 Final Project Video Showcase Slides



Late Policy: We will deduct 10% for each day an assignment is late. Please contact the instructors well in advance to request extensions if needed.

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 and read the readings. Each lecture will assume that you have read and are ready to discuss the day's readings.

Class participation includes both in-lecture activities (as is feasible) and engagement on the course discussion site (Ed). Up through week 8, all enrolled students are required to submit at least 1 substantive discussion post per week related to the course readings or lecture material. Each student also has 1 pass for skipping comments.

Good comments typically exhibit one or more of the following:

In addition, we will post short quizzes to reinforce important concepts. The quizzes are not graded (your score on a quiz will not affect your course grade), but you are required to complete the quiz as part of your course participation.


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 cse512@cs or discuss it at office hours.