Course Description

Data is available today at an unprecedented scale, but data itself is not valuable if it can not be understood. To be useful, data needs to be represented in a way that facilitates the clear communication of information. Designers can address this need by creating compelling, informative, and persuasive data visualizations.

Creating projects that depend heavily on data can involve unique challenges. How do you a make a project that stays up to date with the latest data? How do you represent thousands, or millions, of pieces of data accurately and practically? How do you address a diverse audience, in which each member may be interested in different aspects of the data?

Computer programming is an essential tool for many designers facing these challenges. Working with code allows designers to execute projects that would be too complex, tedious, or error prone otherwise.

In this course you will explore a variety of public data sources; build on existing programming knowledge with techniques specific to data visualization; program custom tools for collecting, generating, analyzing, interpreting, and presenting data; and create print-media and digital projects that use data to support a message.

Class Format

The class format will change from week to week. Most of our time in class will be spent on technical or conceptual lectures, project critiques, student presentations, and class discussion. We will occasionally have time in class to work, but expect to complete most of your work between classes.

This is portfolio development class. Rather than focusing on learning specific techincal skills or techniques, assignments will present thematic promts. You are encouraged to respond to these prompts in the context of your own interests and strenghts. In doing so, I hope each of you creates work you are personally invested in.

Learning Outcomes

Through this course, students should:

  • Be exposed to a variety of examples of data visualation designs
  • Learn about several designers and authors who practice in the field of data visualization
  • Improve their skills in designing data visualations
  • Learn to use technology to work with small and large data sets
  • Develop their communication and critique skills
  • Develop a body of work that demonstrates their ability to design informative data-driven work.


  • 30% Short-term Projects
  • 60% Log-term Projects
  • 10% Engagement/Participation

I will provide grade feedback on all assignments throughout the semester. Assignments will be graded using the following rough guide. Please note that work that merely meets all stated requirements is considered “C” work. This is because all asignments are designed to allow (and require) further, self directed exploration. Higher grades are reserved for work that demonstrates substantial effort and achievement in both technical skills and conceptual development. You are encouraged to think of assignments as starting points, and to build on top of them. Your participation grade is based on class discussions and critiques.

  • F 0 – Did Not Turn In
  • D 1 – Incomplete
  • C 2 – Complete, Average Work
  • B 3 – Good Creative/Technical Exploration
  • A 4 – Very Good Creative/Technical Exploration

Class Blog

This blog will serve as an online space for this class. Each of you will have an account, and you will post your assignments (or documentation of your assignments when appropriate) here.

Office Hours

By appointment. Email to arrange.

Textbook and Materials

USB Flash Drive

You need to have a reliable way to store and transport the work you create in this class. A USB Flash drive is excellent for this. You should also make sure you store an up-to-date version of your work in multiple places at all times (e.g. on your flash drive, on your own computer, on dropbox, on a back up drive). You are responsible for storing your work safely so that it will not be lost for any reason, including corrupt or lost media. You are also responsible for making sure your work is availabe at class every week, regardless of network issues.

Required Texts

Readings will be assigned and discussed in class. Readings from books will be announced ahead of time to give you an opportunity to plan. Purchasing texts is not required if you have other access to the material.


We only meet once per week, and we have a lot of material to cover so attendance is important. I will be strictly abiding by the New School attendance policy. You are allowed 2 absences. Any more for any reason and you will be dropped from the class. Two late arrivals or early departures will count as one absence. Coming back late from class breaks counts as arriving late. Using youtube, myspace, Facebook, IM, etc during class will count as an absence for that day.

Laptop Policy

We will spend a good amount of class time working together on coding projects. During work time, computers will be used. However, during a lecture, discussion or critique, computers must be closed or set to sleep. Note-taking can be done on paper. Nothing kills a conversation like a room full of people staring at screens.

Academic Honesty, Plagiarism, and Open-Source

All projects are to be completed by you individually; there are no group assignments. You are encouraged to help each other, but unless otherwise specified you must turn in your own work.

You are encouraged to make use of libraries and tools that will help you create your work, but for all assignments you must clearly list any libraries or code your project depends on.

All visual material appearing in your work must be original. Exceptions may be made when required by the nature of your project. Such exeptions must be approved in advance by me.

Student Disability Services

In keeping with the University’s policy of providing equal access for students with disabilities, any student with a disability who needs academic accommodations is welcome to meet with me privately. All conversations will be kept confidential. Students requesting any accommodations will also need to meet with Jason Luchs in the office of Student Disability Services, who will conduct an intake, and if appropriate, provide an academic accommodation notification letter to you to bring to me. At that point I will review the letter with you and discuss these accommodations in relation to this course. Mr. Luchs’ office is located in 79 Fifth Avenue, 5th floor. His direct line is (212) 229-5626 x3135. You may also access more information through the University’s web site at