CS 767/867: Interactive Data Visualization

(Coordinator: Colin Ware)

Catalog description

Detailed discussion of how an understanding of human perception can help us design better interactive displays of data. Topics include color, space perception, object perception and interactive techniques. Students write interactive programs, give presentations and undertake a project designing and evaluating a novel display technique. Prereq: instructor’s permission.


  • This course can be combined with a CS–769W module to satisfy a Writing Intensive requirement.


  • Think abstractly about computer science problems: Understand perceptual theory relating to data representation, color, texture, motion and shape perception, images vs words, the visual thinking process.
  • Methodologies of software development: Designing visualizations, interaction methods, opengl.
  • Principles and techniques: maps, graphs and tree structures, 2D and 3D scalar fields, 2D and 3D vector fields, time varying data.
  • Good written and oral communication skills: Effective data display, effective presentation, critical writing, images versus words.


Two programming assignments (20%), one presentation (10%), One essay (10%), one project (45%) and two in-class quizzes (5%).


  • Human Perception for Information Display:
    • Basic vision and displays
    • Elementary interactive graphics programming
    • Color Basics & Color For Information Display
    • Objects and Scenes
    • Images and Words
  • Visual Thinking Methods Tools and Tasks:
    • The visual thinking process when using visualizations as cognitive tools
    • Interactive methods and cognitive efficiency
    • Flow Visualization
    • Graph Visualization
    • Interactive Techniques
    • Input, Virtual Viewpoint Control, Virtual Reality
    • Multi-dimensional Data Visualization
    • GeoSpatial Data Visualization
  • Methods:
    • Introduction to OpenGL
    • Introduction to graphics library utility toolkit (glut)
    • Visualization Research Methodologies


Colin Ware: Visual Thinking for Design. Morgan Kaufman, 2008.