Assignment 1: Visualization Design

Due: Monday Oct 2, 2017 by noon

In this assignment, you will design a visualization for a small data set and provide a rigorous rationale for your design choices. You should in theory be ready to explain the contribution of every pixel in the display. You are free to use any graphics or charting tool you please–including drafting it by hand. However, you may find it most instructive to create the chart from scratch using a graphics tool of your choice.

Barley Yield Data

In 1931 and 1932 Minnesota collected data on the yield in bushels per acre of 10 varieties of barley grown in 1/40 acre plots at University Farm, St. Paul, and at the five branch experiment stations located at Waseca, Morris, Crookston, Grand Rapids, and Duluth (all in Minnesota). The varieties were grown in three randomized blocks at each of the six stations during 1931 and 1932, different land being used each year of the test.

Number of records: 120
Variable Names:
  Site: Crookston, Duluth, Grand Rapids, Morris, University Farm, Waseca
  Variety: Glabron, Manchuria, No 457, No 462, No 475, Peatland, Svansota, Trebi, Velvet, Wisc. No 38
  Yield: bushels/acre
  Year: 1931, 1932

We’ve cleaned up this dataset and posted in csv format: barley2.csv


Your task is to download this data and design a static (i.e., single image) visualization that you believe effectively communicates this data and provide a short write-up (no more than 4 paragraphs) describing your design. While you must use the data set given, note that you are free to filter, transform and augment the data as you see fit to highlight the elements that you think are most important in the data set.

As different visualizations can emphasize different aspects of a data set, you should document what aspects of the data you are attempting to most effectively communicate. In short, what story (or stories) are you trying to tell? Just as important, also note which aspects of the data might be obscured or down-played due to your visualization design. You do not have to visualize every dimension of the data.

In your write-up, you should provide a rigorous rationale for your design decisions. Document the visual encodings you used and why they are appropriate for the data. These decisions include the choice of visualization type, size, color, scale, and other visual elements, as well as the use of sorting or other data transformations. How do these decisions facilitate effective communication?

Make sure to size your images so that they fit within a reasonable window size on a laptop screen (i.e. images should be 600-800 pixels wide)’and that the text is readable at that size.

Please include a short description of the tools you used to create the visualization.

Submission Details

This is an individual assignment. You may not work in groups. Your completed assignment is due on Mon Oct 2 at noon. We will be discussing submissions in class, so be sure to avoid a late submission!

To submit your assignment, prepare a PDF containing your image and short description with filename: A1-FirstnameLastname.PDF

Upload this PDF to Canvas.

Please also bring a printout of your PDF to class on Monday Oct 2. (Note: There are color printers in Lathrop Tech Lounge.)


Before class on Wed Oct 4, please take a photo of each critique you received and write a short response (1 paragraph) on what you took away from them. Combine these into a PDF and upload it to Canvas.

Class Submissions

As a follow-up to our in class peer critiques, we have posted everyone’s visualizations for the dataset below. Looking at your classmates’ work is a great opportunity to learn about all the different ways to visualize this data and what the tradeoffs of each design are.