Project 2: Data Visualization

Project 2:

Data visualization

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A data visualization of Wikipedia as part of the World Wide Web, demonstrating hyperlinks

Data visualization is the study of the visual representation of data, meaning “information which has been abstracted in some schematic form, including attributes or variables for the units of information”.[1]

According to Friedman (2008) the “main goal of data visualization is to communicate information clearly and effectively through graphical means. It doesn’t mean that data visualization needs to look boring to be functional or extremely sophisticated to look beautiful. To convey ideas effectively, both aesthetic form and functionality need to go hand in hand, providing insights into a rather sparse and complex data set by communicating its key-aspects in a more intuitive way. Yet designers often fail to achieve a balance between design and function, creating gorgeous data visualizations which fail to serve their main purpose — to communicate information”.[2]

Data visualization is closely related to Information graphicsInformation visualizationScientific visualization and Statistical graphics. In the new millennium data visualization has become active area of research, teaching and development.



For this project, locate a set of data relating to one of topics below. (images and descriptions are from  The data set should represent at least 2 variables, i.e. number of people contracting a disease over time.


Lost amid the constant media buzz over new drugs and findings from longitudinal studies is the notion that “health” has no easy definition. Does it encompass only the body, or also the mind? Is it applicable only to individuals, or also to social groups? Visualizations in this category will explore the various meanings of health, and the ways in which health affects other aspects of society. Examples include plotting the social pathways enabling the spread of epidemics, sketching out the comparative demographics of human longevity, or rendering the dynamic pharmacological activity of a drug molecule. 


Where does the energy come from that drives the global economy and the biosphere? Visualizations in this category are meant to illustrate the interrelationships between energy sources and the societies and species that use them. Examples include charting the geographical and geological context for fossil fuel deposits, mapping the slow spread and interconnectivity of smart grids, or tracing the metabolic pathways that allow bulk biofuel production. 


From the air you breathe, to the water you drink, to the ground beneath your feet, few issues are more fundamental than those concerning your natural surroundings. Visualizations in this category might document, for instance, links between climatological and ecological change, the balance of power between rural, suburban, and urban infrastructure, or the total amount or distribution of specific natural resources, to name just a few. 


Step 2:

Create a graphical representation of the data with intent to upload to  You will need to create a user account!

Take a look at visualizations already created at and other locations for reference and for inspiration.

consider one of the following approaches:

  • A visualization of the data with intent of representing it in a format that is as clear and easy-to-read as possible.  Designed for print display in a poster format (18×24) or so, or for web display.  The final dimension is up to you, but you should be prepared to explain your reasoning.  Focus on accurate display of information without bias.  Think about color choices, display method, use of design elements only to make the data understandable as quickly and accurately as you can.
  • An information graphic that not only displays the data you have chosen, but also communicates other researched facts about topic.  See the daily infographic postings at for ideas.  Note: This sight shows a number of well designed AND POORLY designed infographics.  Be careful what you use as a reference.
  • An artistic representation of the data for visual and emotional impact.  This can be anything you choose with one stipulation:  The data must not be manipulated.  You are to clearly and accurately display the data, however the method you choose to do this might emphasize or deemphasize the meaning via design and artistic representation.  One example of this would be the digital photography work by Chris Jordan.  He uses imagery to display simple data with visual impact.
  • Other.  If you have another idea for your project that fits somewhere outside the list above, I am open for discussion.  This may include interactive web display, installation work, video, etc.  BUT, I will expect a very clear idea with very clear intent and reasoning.
  • Group.  If you would like to work on more complex projects in groups or pairs, please discuss with me.

Be sure to cite your data source.  This should not be  They are a secondary place of storage and reference, not the source itself.  All sources should be cited when you download them on  Failure to cite your data will result in a 50% reduction of your grade on the project.

Step 3: Posting.

Upload your completed project to  Be sure to include a description of the piece and your methods for production.

Post a link to your uploaded visualization on the blog under the Project 2 category.

Due Dates:

  • Thursday, Feb 3.  Present your idea to the class. -this should be posted on the blog along with referenced samples. -this will be 10% of your grade.
  • Tuesday, Feb 15, Review progress in class. – this will be 15% of your grade.  I expect to see fair progress, roughly half complete.
  • Tuesday, Feb 22, Project critique.  Projects should be uploaded to BEFORE the start of class.  You will present your work from the site, or, if you choose, you may print out the work or share high resolution photos (installation) of the piece.

Questions?  Ask.


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