Assignment 1: Visualization Design

Due: Monday Oct 1, 2018 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.

Simpsons Episodes Data

The site has collected a data set describing the first 600 episodes of the Simpsons. For each episode the data set contains the following information.

Number of records: 600
Variable Names:
     id: Episode number
     image_url: Link to image for the episode
     imdb_rating: Rating from IMDB
     imdb_votes: Votes from IMDB
     number_in_season: Number of episodes in season
     number_in_series: Episode number
     original_air_date: Date of first airing
     original_air_year: Year of first airing
     original_air_year: Year of first airing
     season: Season number
     title: Episode title
     us_viewers_in_millions: Number of viewers
     video_url: Link to episode online
     views: Number of views for online episode

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


The assignment score is out of a maximum of 10 points. We will determine scores by judging both the soundness of your design and the quality of the write-up. We will also look for consideration of audience, message and intended task. Here are the specific aspects we will be grading:

  • Expressiveness: Are perceptually effective encodings used? Can you discern the most important variable? Are the more important data mapped to the more perceptually effective visual variables?
  • Supporting Comparisons/Pattern Perception: Does the visualization make it possible to compare data to each other, to a reference line, or to counts?
  • Cognitive Load/Efficiency: Are there extraneous visual elements that seem unnecessary?
  • Data Transformations: Do any of the marks represent data that has been transformed (e.g., aggregated, rescaled, filtered, etc.)? If so, is the transformation helpful for conveying the patterns or insights?
  • Guides (Non-data Elements): Are the title, caption, labels, data source, and annotations descriptive and consistent? Are other references (gridlines, legends, etc.) useful for analyzing the data?

We will reward entries that go above and beyond the assignment requirements to produce effective graphics. Examples may include outstanding visual design, meaningful incorporation of external data to reveal important trends, demonstrating exceptional creativity, or effective annotations or other narrative devices.

Submission Details

This is an individual assignment. You may not work in groups. Your completed assignment is due on Mon Oct 1 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 1. (Note: There are color printers in Lathrop Tech Lounge.)