Information Visualization

Visualization Entry | February 26th 2017

Visualization is one of the significant method applied in human center design. According to the lecture, information visualization is “visual display of information”.

For the visualization project, we worked in the form of pair programming during the studio to learn to make visualization through Tableau. In addition, we worked individually after class and made our own visualization sets based on the 911 call data.

What I Did?

In-studio Practice

This week in studio, we learned a new cooperation strategy called pair programming. Two students worked in group with only one computer. The two students will take turn being the driver who use the Tableau to make the visualization and the navigator who reads through the tutorial and guide the driver through the process.

In our group, with me as the navigator first, we worked through Exercise 1: Plan a Parade Route Based on Traffic Safety Concerns in the tutorial based on the 911 call data set. In this practice, we learned to create geographic map, tree and linear graph. During the practice, I read through the tutorial and give navigations to my partner while she made the visualization with the software.

Students Working in Pair: Pair Programming

Then we switched the role and went through Exercise 2: Select Good Dates and Times for a Parade Based Relative to Other Demands. In this practice, we learned to make linear graph, tree map, and bar chart graph.

After-class Visualization Project

The outclass project for visualization is based on the 911 data set. In the project, I selected my user group as the Cascade Bicycle Club. I chose this user group because it is closely related to our daily life as most people have biking experience. And personally, I like biking and is more familiar the user group.

To bring out the research question, I create a scenario for the user group: the Cascade Bicycle Club is organizing a three-weeks biking learning camp in the upcoming summer in the Seattle area. In the camp, participants are going to learn and practice bicycling around the camp locations. In this case, the research question would be at which location and in which month should the camp be held? I chose this scenario because according to the club website, summer camp is one of their most significant activities around the year.

To address this research question, I made four visualizations. The first one is a map showing the 911 call related to traffic incidents in Seattle area from 2014–2015. As safety issue is always the first concern of the event, this visualization aims to help the viewers to understand when and where the traffic incidents are likely to occur in the area so that they can select the location and time with minimum risk. The second one is a map showing the 911 call related to bike theft in Seattle area from 2014–2015. The map presents how bike theft incidents distribute around the area with dots representing the incidents. The third one a bar chart of the number of Traffic related incidents happened in each month from May to October. It helps the users to take a closer look at the number of traffic related incidents occurred.

screenshot of visualization


For the practice in studio, I learned a lot from the pair programming strategies. At first, my partner and I weren’t familiar with the strategy so it is hard for us to be on the same pace. Sometimes when I was still reading the next instruction, she already finished her part and start reading the instruction herself. But half way through the first exercise, we realized it would be more efficient if we adjust the pace.Then I start to appreciate the advantage of the strategy. As the two of us have separate tasks instead of doing two tasks at the same time, we are able to focus more and be more efficient about the task we are responsible for. For example, when my partner was trying to make the visualization while reading the tutorial at the same time, it took her longer to find the right section on the tutorial. And it would also take me longer to shift my attention from the tutorial to operate the software at the same time. So this strategy can make the work much more efficient.

For the after-class project, I learned to compare different types of graphs that may contains the same type of information and learned to use them accordingly. For example, the first map I made for the location of traffic incidents can also show what month of the year the incident happened. At the same time, the bar chart graph I made for the traffic incidents also shows the month when incidents happened. But the two visualization serves different purposes. The map allows the users to obtain a broader look at the distribution in location and time in a quick glance. But the bar chat actually provides more focused and detailed information on the incident time. It simulates the user to think deeper about the time selection. Therefore, I learned that different types of graph can show the same information with different focuses and designers should make good use of this fact.

Apply in the Future

I believe the strategy of pair programming can be applied not only to this project but also varies aspect in human-centered design and engineering or even beyond the field of design. The idea of two people working together on a project but focus on separate tasks brings higher efficiency. For example, the strategy may be applied to any software related tasks in a design project with one person as the driver and the other as navigator. The strategy may be applied to the prototype making process too.

In addition, the visualization technique can be widely applied too. For example, in design, the technique can be used in the phase of investigation before ideation.The designer will collect information by doing research and the visualization technique can be used to better display and analyze the information. The technique also can be applied beyond the field of design. For example, visualization can be extremely helpful for displaying scientific research result to public.