CS4460 Information Visualization
Fall, 2019
Monday, Wednesday 3:00-4:15pm
College of Computing Building, Room 16

Instructor: Prof. Alex Endert
TSRB 335
Office hours: by appointment (email me to find a time)

Teaching Assistants

Name Email Office Hours
Subhajit Das Wednesdays 11-1; CoC Lobby Area
Alex Chan Fridays 10-noon; Klaus common area between 2116 and 2124
Joey Gonzales-Dones Tuesdays 4:30-6:30pm; Klaus common area between 2116 and 2124
John Ho Wednesdays 1-3pm; lounge area near TSRB 335
Kelly Su Wednesdays 10am-noon; lounge area near TSRB 335

Note: please use private Canvas posts to contact TAs.

Information visualization goes beyond presenting information as static charts, graphs and maps by leveraging the power of computer interaction to help people analyze, understand and make decisions from data.  Dozens of companies – including Google, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and SAP – offer Information Visualization tools. Thousands of companies and governments use the tools for daily operations and for longer-term strategic planning.

Information visualization methods are applied to data from many different application domains, including:

  • Political reporting and forecasting – as seen on TV and in the papers in election season.
  • News reporting – look at the interactive visualizations used by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Slate, etc.
  • Social science and economics data, such as census and other surveys, and micro and macro economic trends.
  • Social networking and web traffic, to understand patterns of communication
  • Business intelligence and business dashboards – to forecast sales trends, understand competitive marketplace positions, allocate resources, manage production and logistics.
  • Text analysis – to determine trends and relationships for literary analysis and for information retrieval.
  • Criminal investigations – to portray the relationships between event, people, places and things.
  • Performance analysis of computer networks and systems.
  • Software engineering – developing, debugging and maintaining software.
  • Bioinformatics, to understand DNA, gene expressions, systems biology.

Course objectives

  • Learn the principles involved in designing effective information visualizations.
  • Understand the wide variety of information visualizations and know what visualizations are appropriate for various types of data and for different goals.
  • Understand how to design and implement information visualizations.
  • Know how information visualizations use dynamic interaction methods to help users understand data.
  • Learn to apply an understanding of human perceptual and cognitive capabilities to the design of information visualizations.
  • Develop skills in critiquing different visualization techniques in the context of user goals and objectives.
  • Learn how to implement compelling information visualizations.

The course will follow a lecture/seminar style with discussions, demonstrations of InfoVis software, viewing of videos,  hands-on experience with information visualization software, and in-class activities. An important aspect of this learning is being present in class. While slides give key points and high-level topics discussed, much of the content of the course comes through the discussion of visualizations, and other in-class activities. If you want to do well, attending class is important.

Prequisites. Junior or Senior status; CS1332 with C or better. Programming assignments require Javascript and D3. Some of these will use GitHub.  If you do not already know Javascript or GitHub, you will need to learn them on your own.  There are in-class D3 lectures that give you an overview, but you will be expected to learn the depth of this language outside of class time as part of the assignments throughout the course.

Required texts

Other texts for those who want to learn more (not required)

  • Now You See It, Stephen Few, Analytics Press, 2009. Consider partnering with someone else to buy this.  ISBN 9780970601988
  • Design for Information: An Introduction to the Histories, Theories, and Best Practices Behind Effective Information Visualizations, Isabel Meirelles, Rockport Publishers, 2013. ISBN 1592538061.
  • For those interested in design: Any of Edward Tufte’s three books: The Visual Display of Quantitative Information; Envisioning Information; and Visual Explanations.
  • For those interested in business intelligence and business dashboards: Wayne Eckerson, Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business, Wiley, 2005, ISBN 978-0471724179
  • For those interested in Network Visualization, particularly Social Networks: Hansen, Shneiderman and Smith, Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL, Morgan Kaufman, 2011, ISBN 978-0-12-382229-1.
  • For those interested in the psychological/perceptual factors affecting information visualization: Colin Ware, Information Visualization: Perception for Design, 2nd Edition, Morgan Kaufman Elsevier 2004, ISBN 978-1558608191.
  • For a deeper treatment of many aspects of InfoVIz: Visualization Analysis and Design, Tamara Munzer, CRC Press 2014, ISBN 9781466508910.

Course format. Lectures interspersed with discussion and in-class design activities.

Timeliness.  All assignments are due at the start of class on the day listed in the schedule.  You are given 3 late days in total to use during this semester (e.g., you can use 1 late day for HW2, and 2 for HW3, …). These are for any cases where Institute-approved absences do not apply, and no reason must be given to use them. Beyond the 3 days, any late assignments will receive a 10% per day penalty. Assignments turned in one week or later past the due date will not be graded and given a 0. This goes for both Homework Assignments (HW) and Programming Homework Assignments (P). Too much other work, gone for the weekend, ran out of paper etc. are not emergencies, and that’s what the late days are for. Advance notification to the instructor and TAs is expected in all but the most severe emergency situations. When you use your late days is up to you. Note that you have to clearly note on your assignment if you want to apply your late days. This has to be done at the time of submission, not later in the semester. Once you use them, you cannot switch them later in the semester, so plan wisely.

Canvas, GitHub, and Piazza. This course will use Canvas for grading and electronic submission of assignments. Piazza is for asking questions and discussing InfoVis-related concepts. The use of GitHub for your programming assignments is highly recommended. When using GitHub, please create only private repositories to avoid potential/ inadvertent plagiarism. 

Grading. Grading will be based on class participation, a class presentation, homework, use and analysis of some information visualization tools, and a project.  There will be two tests during the semester (midterm and final). Only final course grades may be curved, not individual assignments.

Grading distribution and weighting is:

Midterm:                                       15%
Final:                                              25%
Homework Assignments:              25%
Programming Assignments:         30%
Pop Quizzes:                                 5%

See the assignment section for details.

Mutual expectations. At Georgia Tech we believe that it is important to continually strive for an atmosphere of mutual respect, acknowledgement, and responsibility between faculty members and the student body. See for an articulation of some basic expectations – that you can have of me, and that I have of you. In the end, simple respect for knowledge, hard work, and cordial interactions will help build the environment we seek. I encourage you to remain committed to the ideals of Georgia Tech while in this class, and always.

Attendance is expected. There will be no less than 5 pop quizzes given at the start , middle, or end of class, which serve as the method by which attendance will be taken. If you arrive late, you will not have extra time to complete the pop quiz. Institute approved absences will be accommodated if notifications are sent to the instructor via email ahead of time. Notify us, by email, if you will miss class for these reasons (if you feel some other reason for absence is reasonable, email us, but again, in advance). Attendance (via pop quizzes) will be taken during many of the classes. Two unapproved absences are OK (i.e., your lowest two pop quiz scores will be dropped).

Contacting your instructor and TA. By far the best way to get in touch with us is via email. For most of the reasons you might contact us, please include all the TAs and instructor on your emails to make sure we are all informed. Start your email subject with ‘[CS4460] ‘ (e.g., [CS4460] question about test 1, [CS4460] interesting InfoVis I found, etc.) so that it is easier for us to find your emails and respond to them. We will do our best to respond quickly.

Collaboration and academic honesty. Georgia Tech aims to cultivate a community based on trust, academic integrity, and honor. Students are expected to act according to the highest ethical standards. For information on Georgia Tech’s Academic Honor Code, please visit or

Any student suspected of cheating or plagiarizing on a quiz, exam, or assignment will be reported to the Office of Student Integrity, who will investigate the incident and identify the appropriate penalty for violations.

Unless explicitly stated otherwise, you are expected to do homework on your own. It is appropriate to discuss your ideas with others to gain feedback and help with sticky problems.  It is not appropriate find existing solution online or from your friends, modify them, and submit as your own work.  If in doubt, confer with your instructor. It is much easier to ask about these things than handle the consequences of a poor decision.

In-class use of computers, cell phones, and tablets. Please use your technology appropriately while in class. Using computers. tablets, smartphones, watches, VR headsets, etc. in a way that reinforces the educational context, such as taking notes or visiting a web site being discussed, is appropriate. Reading email, playing games, browsing social media, watching Netflix, doing your HW assignments, purchasing football tickets, web browsing, etc. are not appropriate. Not only does this detract from your learning, it unavoidably distracts those sitting near you. As well, incoming emails and alerts are distracting. Even note-taking on your computer may not be such a great idea: studies have shown that note-taking by hand has been shown to be more efficient for learning (also see this news story), as opposed to by computer, but that’s your call.

Also, understand that this course is about data visualization. We will spend significant class time showing slides of visualizations and discussing them. The content of the discussion is not captured in the slides, yet you are expected to take notes, learn, and be tested on it. For example, we may discuss the design of a visualization, where the slide contains a full-screen view of the vis, and no notes.

Accommodations for students with disabilities. If you are a student with learning needs that require special accommodation, contact the Office of Disability Services (often referred to as ADAPTS) at, as soon as possible, to make an appointment to discuss your special needs and to obtain an accommodations letter. Please also e-mail your instructor as soon as possible in order to set up a time to discuss your learning needs. It is your responsibility to ensure that the instructor and appropriate GT offices are aware prior to assignments, exams, or other graded activities conducted during this class.

Student Support Services. In your time at Georgia Tech, you may find yourself in need of support. Here you will find some resources to support you both as a student and as a person.

Software. One of the assignments is to analyze data using Tableau. Tableau’s data visualization software is provided through the Tableau for Teaching program.