CS7450 – Information Visualization
Fall 2020
Monday, Wednesday 3:30 – 4:45pm
In-person: Weber SST Room 1
Remote Meeting Link: https://gatech.webex.com/gatech/j.php?MTID=m4259f505c37818ec9b1e46c0418a2601

Regarding Hybrid Class Instruction Mode:
Class will meet remotely unless specifically indicated on the schedule. For the first week, please join if you are on the waitlist.

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

Teaching Assistants:
Grace Guo
Office hours: TBD

Karthik Nama Anil
Office hours: TBD


Information visualization is an area of research that helps people analyze and understand data using visualization techniques. The multi-disciplinary area draws from other areas of science, including human-computer interaction, data science, psychology, and art to develop new visualization methods and understand how (and why) they are effective.

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 information visualization
  • Understand the wide variety of information visualizations and know what visualizations are appropriate for various types of data and for different goals
  • 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, and hands-on experience with information visualization software.



  • none


Other texts for those who want to learn even more

  • 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.


All assignments are due before the start of class on the day listed in the schedule.  Late work will receive a 25% per day penalty. After 4 days, a 0% will be given and no submission will be accepted. Too much other work, gone for the weekend, ran out of paper etc. are not emergencies. Advance notification to the instructor and TAs is expected in all but the most severe emergency situations.

However, it is understandable that life events and other reasons come up that may require you to miss a deadline. As such, each student is given 2 “late days” that you can use throughout the semester. By default, we will use them in a greedy fashion (e.g., if an assignment is late, we will use your late days until you have no more). If for any reason you do not want to use a late day when an assignment is late, you have to leave a note on Canvas at the time of submission. You cannot go back and switch around your late days at the end of the semester. Late days cannot be used for project milestones or lab assignments (only HW).

Canvas and Piazza

Canvas will be used for electronic submissions used for most of the assignments, and for recording grades. Piazza will be used for asking questions. For contacting me or the TAs, please use email or Canvas messages.


Grading will be based on class participation, a class presentation, homework, use and analysis of some information visualization tools, and a project.  Final course grades may be curved (but not always). Grades of individual assignments will not be curved. If a curve is given, it will only be curved up (not down). Grading distributions for this course are:

Final Exam 19%
HW Assignments 29%
In-class Exercises 5%
Project 39%
Programming Labs 8%

See the project and homework sections 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 http://www.catalog.gatech.edu/rules/22/ 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. Institute approved absences will be accommodated, as will absences for interviews, conferences, etc. Notify us, by email, if you will miss class for one of these two reasons (if you feel some other reason for absence is reasonable, email us, but again, in advance). COVID update: I understand that this semester will be challenging. I will do everything I can to accommodate excused absences. In the event that some of our classes meet on campus, attendance will not be required.

Contacting your instructor and TA. For communication with TAs and Instructors, please use Canvas messages. Email will work ok, but it will likely take longer to get a response due to flooded inboxes. Piazza works well for questions that you think others in class might have, or other students might be able to answer.

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 http://www.catalog.gatech.edu/policies/honor-code/ or http://www.catalog.gatech.edu/rules/18/.

Any student suspected of cheating or plagiarizing on a quiz, exam, assignment, or project 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. Your project, in contrast, is inherently collaborative. Your work may borrow libraries and code fragments from sources on the web that you integrate into an overall working system.  Your source code should indicate what code is imported and used as is, what code is imported and modified, and what code is original. To do so, just indicate it as a header comment or readme file. It is appropriate to discuss your project with others to gain ideas and feedback and help with sticky problems.  It is not appropriate to find an existing InfoVis system, modify it, and submit it 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. Also, 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. In short, it’s really in your best interest to take the 75 minutes out of your day, disconnect from the internet, and engage in the course. 

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.

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 (404)89-2563 or http://disabilityservices.gatech.edu/, 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.

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