The days ahead (and behind)

Week 14

  • Project Presentations
    • Today we are joined by Agnes Chang, Alec Barrett, and Ellie Frymire
    • Each student will have 5 minutes for their presentation followed by ≈10 minutes of feedback from our guest critics.


  • Next Tuesday will be our final class meeting and your best chance to incorporate the feedback you received today into your projects and presentations.
  • For MS2 students: in preparation for the keynotes, week make sure your project is represented on the program’s thesis site—you’ll be expected to present from there in class.

Week 13

  • Presentation
  • Projects
    • Deliver first drafts of final project keynotes (10 minutes apiece)


  • Incorporate the feedback you received to both your project and your presentation. Edit the presentation down so that it clocks in at five minutes.

NB: Our next class will be on Thursday, May 2nd and will be another chance for you to practice your presentation and receive feedback from a broader selection of critics (including some guests).

Week 12

  • Presentation
  • Projects
    • Meet in small groups to look over your progress


  • Prepare an approximately 10 minute long slide presentation describing your project, its subject matter, and what you’ve made/discovered.

Week 11


  • Design and realize a third graphic using real data
  • Incorporate feedback into your existing pair of visualizations
  • Begin implementing the interactive features you decided upon for your site. Now is also a good time to figure out whether your approach will be to build it in full by the end of the semester or instead focus on generating a comprehensive set of static views that could function as a design spec.

NB: For the second (and final) week in a row, our section will be meeting on Thursday and the technical workshop will meet on Tuesday.

Week 10

  • Discussion of Kate Crawford’s Anatomy of an AI System
  • Individual meetings to look over your wireframes and discuss the substance of your project plans


  • Design and realize a second graphic using real data
  • Continue refining your webpage design, moving from wireframe-with-placeholders to something more considered (with thoughtfully selected and iteratively tested typography, color scheme, and layout).
  • Arrive next week with a plan (in words and/or pencil sketches) for the role of interactivity in your final project (if applicable). Disregard transitions and the top-level UI for the moment and instead focus on enumerating and sketching all the discrete 'views' that you wish to display.

NB: In a change of schedule for next week, the Technical Lab with Daniel will meet on Tuesday and the Studio class with Christian & Richard will meet on Thursday.

Week 9

Making Your Case

  • Having reflected on the research you did over break and what you learned from your domain-expert interview, try to condense your overall argument into a single (long) web page
  • Use one or more sheets of 8½×11" paper to try out different content & layout possibilities, experimenting both with the arguments you’re making and their presentational aspects (on an editorial and a design level)
  • Start your page with a project headline and one or more paragraphs of intro text.
    • As has been the case for the headlines in your poster designs, you should either be posing a non-trivial question or describing a result you’ll be exploring. Don’t just passively name the subject matter of the project.
  • Follow this with at least 4 subsections, each of which consists of:
    1. A headline posing a specific argument or question
    2. A pencil sketch of the graphic that will address/elaborate upon this
    3. Supplemental text that supports the point being made by the graphic or provides essential context for making sense of it
  • Close out the page with a Conclusions section in which you very briefly recap what’s been laid out in the prior sections but primarily outline the implications of what you’ve found. This is the portion of the page that most directly addresses the ‘so what’ factor and is your chance to have the ‘final word’ on the subject that your readers will take away with them. Use it wisely...


  • Read Kate Crawford’s Anatomy of an AI System essay and choose one of the articles in the Footnotes section to also read and discuss in your write-up. Use the tag R4 for your response blog post.
  • Design a ‘wireframe’ version of your project webpage
    • The wireframe must be built in HTML, so either use this HTML template or start from scratch to create a mock-up of your long-scroll website (based on what you created on paper in class)
    • The page should contain all the sections listed below (at a minumum!)
    • Make use of the information hierarchy naturally provided by HTML structure (h1, h2, h3)
    • Play with typography and layout as well as the style of the charts.
    • Add a pithy <title> to the HTML header
    • Commit your finished work to the repo as a subdirectory of your student folder called wireframe.
    • Extra credit: Use breakpoint-basedmedia queries’ in your CSS so the page displays equally well on desktop and mobile
Use this structure for your page:

  1. Project headline <h1>
    • Intro text
  2. First Argument/Question <h2>
    • Descriptive text
    • Graph
  3. Second Argument/Question <h2>
    • Descriptive text
    • Graph
  4. Third Argument/Question <h2>
    • Descriptive text
    • Graph
  5. Fourth Argument/Question <h2>
    • Descriptive text
    • Graph
  6. Conclusion <h3>
    • Descriptive text

Week 8

Quantitative Analysis: Round 2


  • Conduct your interview
    • Create a transcript (consider uploading your recording to Youtube and copy/pasting its automatic transcription from the "…" menu)
    • Place the transcript in a file called in your student directory of the course repository
  • Thesis: Introduction & Background
    • Write the first half of your thesis (≈5,000 words for MS2, 2,000 for MS1) providing an introduction for a general (but interested) audience to your problem domain. Consult the “Writing Your Argument” chapters of The Craft of Research as you walk the reader through the necessary context to understand your approach and be sure to provide cues as what you expect to find once you’ve completed your project.
    • Describe the phenomenon you’ve been researching, introducing the primary causal factors as you understand them and identifying places where your topic interfaces with the broader world and individual readers’ experience of it.
    • Provide examples of previous research into this topic (graphical or otherwise) and include a minimum of 10 citations (5 for MS1) to books, articles, artworks, lectures, videos, etc. Be sure to use these citations as a means of illustrating the points you are making—don't just dump them out as a context-free bulleted list.
    • Include a bibliography itemizing all the citations you referenced as well as any additional ones that are noteworthy but haven't been incorporated into the text yet. Use Chicago Manual of Style formatting for both the references and the bibliography.
    • Use these example theses from previous years as a reference for format, style, and length.
    • Save two copies of your document manuscript to the repository—one in the editable format of your chosing (Word, Pages, Markdown, LaTeX), and another as a printable PDF. Title both of these files introduction (with a .pdf extension for one and whatever other file extension is appropriate for the other).

Week 7

  • Presentation
  • Interview subjects
    • Share your short-list of domain experts and choose one or two to send an initial email to

Quantitative Analysis: Round 1

  • Present results of your exploratory visualizations and the research questions you arrived at
  • Work in pairs to choose which of the ‘stock’ visualizations are pointing in an interesting direction and begin pencil sketching ideas for a single poster that communicates one or (ideally) many of the results you've uncovered


  • Contact your interview subject
    • Arrange to talk in person if at all possible, but also offer to talk over the phone/skype/hangouts/etc.
    • Let them know what you’re studying and what you’d like to discuss with them/why they’re on your radar
    • Reassure them that it’ll only take 20–30 minutes
    • Offer to share written questions ahead of time upon request
    • Let them know you need to have completed the interview by March 26th
  • Quantitative Analysis: Round 2
    • Continue iterating on the design you started sketching in class today
    • Collect/clean whatever data was missing or incomplete—the final version must not be using any ‘placeholder data’.
    • Design a single 11×17" poster visualizing your chosen dataset(s) and incorporating a line of text that either makes the claim you brought in today or otherwise situates us to understand the context the graphic operates in.
    • Somewhere on the poster include a note identifying your data source.
    • Print your final 11x17 visualization and bring it to class.
    • Create a new blog post that describes your process. As before, you should explain: What is the topic? What is the data set? What are the visual decisions you made? What were the original sketches and iterations.
    • Use the tag “quantitative” when publishing your post.

Week 6

Qualitative → Quantitative


  • Quantitative Analysis: Round 1
    • Before ‘designing’ anything, we will be using exploratory visualizations of real, quantitative data to find an initial set of patterns and phenomena of interest.
    • For next week you will create at least five graphics using off the shelf tools such as Google Sheets, D3, Tableau, etc. to plot different variables against one another.
    • Each chart must be making a different comparison: either using an entirely distinct dataset from the others, or at least a different combination of columns from a common table.
    • If you can’t decide whether something should be, for instance, a bar chart vs line graph, please plot both of them but realize that all these views of the same subset of the data only count as a single ‘graphic’ toward the required five.
    • For each graphic, add a headline phrased as a claim for which the graphic provides evidence.
    • Create a blog post that links to ‘live’ versions of the spreadsheets, web pages, etc. where you’ve created your charts and/or to the csv or json files containing your data. Use the tag “quantitative” when publishing your post.
    • Print a single 11×17" page with all your charts and headlines on it (but again, don’t worry about ‘designing’ it per se) and bring this to class.

Week 5

Qualitative Analysis: Round 1

  • Silent feedback: Walk around the room for ≈20 minutes and leave at least 1 ‘formal’ and 1 ‘conceptual’ sticky note on each classmate’s group of posters
  • Brief critique of posters and identification of a single direction to develop for next week


  • Select an interview subject
    • For the interview portion of your written thesis you will be meeting with a domain expert and recording/transcribing your conversation. Two factors will govern your selection: the potential utility of the person to your understanding of the topic and their availability. As a result it’s important to cast a wide net—at least to start.
    • Make a list of 5 people you’d be interested in talking to and save it to the git repo in a file called For each person in the list, include their name, a one sentence description of who they are/what they have to offer, and a link to their web presence. Sort the list so the people you’re most interested in talking to are at the top.
  • Qualitative Analysis
    • Pick the best of the directions you showed today.
    • React to feedback in regards to how it communicates, how the qualitative data is visualized, typography, color, form.
    • Add any missing data you didn't have so far
    • Print your final 11x17 visualization and bring it to class
    • Create a new blog post that describes your process. It should answer these questions: What is the topic? What is the data set? What are the visual decisions you made? What were the original sketches and iterations. Use the tag “qualitative” when publishing your post.

Week 4

  • Research Projects
    • You will each be responsible for researching a designer or artist and presenting your findings
    • Please choose a research subject from this list and sign up for a time slot in this spreadsheet.

Presentations: Topics & Precedents

  • You will have 10 minutes apiece to bring us up to speed on the topics you’ve been exploring and identify a few of the project ideas you’re considering


  • Reading
  • Qualitative Analysis
    • Pick one of your Topic + Question + Significance that is suitable for a qualitative project. Research what data is available and try to acquire it. Create 3 detailed static visualizations for the format of 11x17" and bring them to class. These designs are not final, but should be fairly far developed already. We will judge topic, concept, visualization, color and typography. Make sure to label each one. You can work in Illustrator or other graphic software or in code. Speak to what data is available and how you're using it.

Week 3

  • Community Agreement
    • We’ll collectively edit this document to establish some ground rules for what we expect from one another during class meetings this semester
  • Reading discussion

Exercise: Create a Topic Map

  • Using the printed out copy of your Literature Review as raw material, first draw a box around all the terms within that correspond to subjects, questions, or problems then cut those pieces of text out of the page.
  • Arrange the pieces of text using an 11×17" sheet as a canvas. Spread them out enough to occupy most of the empty space, but cluster them such that ideas that are conceptually related are nearer one another on the page than those that have less in common
  • Once the arrangement seems sensible to you, start looking at the empty space on the page between the pieces of paper and start writing in additional terms—again making sure that you place them in the proper location such that they make sense nestled amongst their neighbors
  • Now start drawing lines between all the words on the page (both printed and handwritten) to make clearer what is related to what. Consider using the thickness of the line, its dashed- or solidness, the color of the ink, whether it ends with an arrowhead, etc. to identify qualities of the connection. Consider the ‘strength’ of connections, whether their relationship is hierarachical, whether they concern a ‘pure’ or ‘applied’ problem, or whether there is a directional or cause-and-effect link between them.
    • In one corner of the page, draw a Key to explain the encoding you’ve employed in drawing these connections
  • On a separate sheet of paper, start writing a numbered list of Research Questions that involve one or more of the items on your topic map. Once you have at least six of these (but ideally more), add markers with the corresponding numbers to the map. As before, make sure they are placed such that they are closest to the topics they are most related to. Draw lines connecting these question markers to the topics that inspired them
  • Before a draft blows your map away, take a photo of it in its current state. Use some sticky tape to fix the terms to the page if you want to save it for later.
  • Meet in pairs and spend a few minutes looking over each other’s maps and question lists. Read them in silence at first and try to come up with your own impression of where your peer’s research is heading.
  • After you feel like you’ve gotten a sense of things, take turns presenting to one another where you’re currently thinking and hearing what your partner’s impression was from the map, and what feedback they have


  • Reading
    • Read chapters 7–10 from The Craft of Research in the section “Making an Argument”
    • Use the tag “R2” for your write-up and be sure to publish it before the start of class next week.
  • Identifying a topic
    • Based on the feedback you received in class, select up to three (but ideally one) ‘Subjects’ to explore for your project.
    • Working within each subject area, use the ‘3 step’ formula to identify potential combinations of Topic + Question + Significance. Within each subject, the ‘topic’ portion of the formula will likely be very similar but don’t just repeat yourself. Each time consider whether your description of the Topic is at the right level of specificity: make it as general or as focused as needed to match well with the Question you pose.
    • Propose at least 5 of these per Topic and for each question identify the nature of the data that you would need to start making headway. If you can find preexisting data sources all the better, but most important is identifying the kind and structure of the data you’d need and the feasibility of acquiring it.
    • For each Topic, look on the web for three precedents—these may be data visualizations but could also be research projects, articles, books, etc. that took an entirely different approach to exploring and synthesizing information with the field.
    • Create a text document in your students subdirectory called in which you write out the Topic + Question + Significance formula for each of your ideas, followed by a list of links to the precedents and sources you found.
    • Prepare a brief slide presentation (10 minutes or so) describing your subject area(s) and some potential research questions. You should spend about half of that time getting us up to speed on the world you’ll be researching, and the rest talking about potential projects engaging with it.

Week 2

Exercise: Literature Review

  • Start by visiting pages on Wikipedia that are relevant to your topic. Skim each article looking for primary sources relating to your subject. Then scroll down to the bottom of the page and look over the References section and take particular note of authors and titles that seem interesting. Follow some of the links to secondary sources and try to harvest potential citations from there.
  • Based on this internet research, find 3 books in the NYU Bobst library catalog which you’d consider relevant for your literature review. Be sure to use the ‘Tweak My Results’ sidebar filters to stay within the library. Your three books should focus on different aspects of your subject:
  1. a person relevant to your field of interest
  2. a particular era or place of historical significance
  3. an event, thing, or process that is central to the field
  • Write down each book’s ‘call number’ and use this map to find their locations on the shelves.
  • Walk down Fifth Ave. to Bobst Library in the southeast corner of the park.
  • Within reach of each book’s shelf location, choose one additional title. Since call numbers group related books via physical proximity, you will marvel at the relevance of this serendipitous find.
  • You are now holding six books.
  • Check out all of the books you’ve selected unless they’re available online.


  • Reading
    • Read chapters 3–6 from The Craft of Research in the section “Asking Questions, Finding Answers”
    • For every reading assignment, you will be expected to post a short (250–500 word) write-up summarizing what you took to be the ‘message’ of the piece, what you agreed or disagreed with, and what you’d be curious to hear your peers’ opinions about.
    • Be sure to add the tag “R1” to your post by clicking on the gear icon at the top of the screen and don’t forget to publish your post via the drop-down menu in the upper right corner of the editor.
  • Literature Review
    • If you haven’t done so already, make a local clone of the course Github repository and locate your personal subdirectory within the students folder.
    • Add the titles of your six books to the file within your student directory using Chicago Manual of Style formatting (feel free to use Citation Machine to figure out the ‘syntax’).
    • Do some research into library catalog systems and figure out which scheme Bobst uses and what your books’ specific call numbers mean (using the links below). Look into the ‘nearest neighbors’ of your numbers and consider broadening your topic to incorporate them. Include these subject names alongside the call number in the Subjects list of your file.
    • Identify the other major catalog system and figure out where each book would fit into its more hierarchical scheme. Consider the ‘parent’ and ‘child’ categories that relate to your call numbers. Add as many of these as are relevant to your Subjects list (and sort the list so the most general terms are at the top and the most specific at the bottom).
    • Skim each of your books and write up a concise summary of its subject matter, its thesis, and 3 Questions it raised for you or could help you answer. Append these notes to the citations in your Literature Review section.
    • Some useful references:
      Complete listings of LCC Categories
      DDC → LCC and LCC → DDC call number mapping

Week 1

  • Introductions and show & tell
    • brief presentations of previous work
  • Basic plan for the semester
    • readings
    • research presenations
    • static prototyping & exploration
    • weekly technical workshops on Thursdays
    • interview & introduction-writing
    • final (potentially interactive) project
  • Housekeeping

Exercise: Ten Sticky Ideas

  • Domains · 15 minutes

    Using post-its, write down 10 possible subject areas that you would like to investigate with your main project. Each should have a name and at least one sentence or one question that clarifies why you are interested in them.

  • Scope · 5 minutes

    Test the scope of each domain, is it too large and vague; too narrow or specific? Try doing a google search for your domain keyword, do you come up with hits that are close to your interest? Can you find research papers that use your keyword? Do those papers need to further define themselves with several subcategories? Example: communication is too broad a term. What kind of communication? A subcategory like non-verbal communication would be a domain with reasonable scope.

  • Precedents · 10 minutes

    For each domain, list a minimum of 3 precedents on individual sticky notes, again placing them accordingly, mind-map style. Consider a range of media, perspectives and methods of creation.

  • Peer feedback · 20 min

    In pairs, speak about each other’s ideas for at least 5–10 minutes. Error check each other on the scope of their domains. If they tell you their domain keyword, can you think of precedents that accurately reflect their interest? If so, they have a good domain scope to begin working. Give feedback about each other’s ideas, paying special attention to surprises, design opportunities or contradictions. Take notes.


  • 7 Numbers in 7 Days
    • design one poster per day and add it to a blog post as a png or jpeg
    • print out all seven posters and bring them to class next week