Visual Communication of Quantitative Information

Lectures (Fall 2009)

T/TR 2:10-3:30pm  Ross 025

Instructors - Contact information and office hours

Heike Hofmann, Snedecor 2413, 4-8948, , , office hours: TBD

Dianne Cook, Snedecor 1415, 4-8865, , office hours: TBD

Charlie Kostelnick, 201 Ross, 4-4455, , office hours: TBD

Course website , and WebCT

Syllabus (from 2007)


Ware, Colin (2004) Information Visualization, Morgan Kaufmann, ISBN 1-155-860819-2


This course will help prepare students to be active citizens in the information technology age.  Students will develop critical thinking skills about how information is visually presented, and they will learn how to accurately and attractively communicate quantitative information using graphics. At the end of the course students will:

  1.  know about important historical and contemporary examples,

  1.  know about and how to implement the elements of graphical design,

  1.  be able to evaluate visual presentations of information in the media, and

  1.  be able to use the computer to generate graphics to communicate information effectively.


Four homework assignments: 40%, one midterm: 15%, one project: 15%, one final project 30%.
To do well in this course you will need to spend 2-3 hours a week (outside of class!). The homework is designed to encourage you do that. For each homework you will need to revise the material, and synthesise some new information, from the help pages or the web. You're welcome to help each other, but you are expected to hand in individual papers.
We will publish a few of the best answers each time so you can learn from each other. If you don't want your paper to be published, please let us know.

Recommended Reading

Edward R. Tufte (2001) The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (Second Edition) Graphics Press

Robert Spence (2001) Information Visualization Addison-Wesley

Stuart K. Card, et al (1999) Readings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think Morgan Kaufmann

Howard Wainer (1997) Visual Revelations Copernicus Books

Alan M. MacEachren (2004)   How Maps Work: Representation, Visualization, and Design

Jacques Bertin (1983) Semiology of Graphics (Trans. William J. Berg) U.Wisc Press

Jacques Bertin (1981) Graphics and Graphic Information-Processing (Trans. William J. Berg and Paul Scott)  De Gruyter, NY.

William Cleveland (1994) The Elements of Graphing Data (Revised Edition) Hobart Press

William Cleveland (1993) Visualizing Data Hobart Press

Charles Kostelnick and David D. Roberts.  ( 1998 ) Designing Visual Language:  Strategies for Professional Communicators  Allyn and Bacon, Needham Heights, MA.

Online Reference Material

Michael Friendly’s Gallery of Graphics

Ben Schneiderman’s Online Library of Interactive Visualization Environments

Iowa State University complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. If you have a disability and anticipate needing accommodations in this course, please contact one of the instructors within the first two weeks of the semester. Retroactive requests for accommodations will not be honored. Before meeting with an instructor, you will need to obtain a SAAR form with recommendations for accommodations from the Disability Resources Office, located in Room 1076 on the main floor of the Student Services Building. Their telephone number is 515-294-6624.