Assignment 1: Visualization Design

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Assignment Due: Sunday Oct 2, 2016 by 11:59pm

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.

Breakfast Cereal

The statistics department at CMU has collected a dataset on breakfast cereal. As noted on their site the data set includes the following information:

Number of cases: 77

Variable Names:

  • name: Name of cereal
  • manufacturer: Manufacturer of cereal
  • shelf: Display shelf of cereal (1, 2, or 3; counting from the floor upwards)
  • weight: Weight of one serving in ounces
  • cups: Number of cups in one serving
  • type: Cold or hot cereal
  • calories: Calories per serving
  • protein: Grams of protein per serving
  • fat: Grams of fat per serving
  • sodium: Milligrams of sodium per serving
  • fiber: Grams of dietary fiber per serving
  • carbohydrates: Grams of complex carbohydrates per serving
  • sugars: Grams of sugars per serving
  • potassium: Milligrams of potassium per serving
  • vitamins: Vitamins and minerals - 0, 25, or 100, indicating the typical percentage of FDA recommended per serving
  • rating: A healthiness rating of the cereals, derived from their nutrients

A value of -1 indicates a missing observation.

We've cleaned up this cereal dataset and formatted it as a csv file for this assignment.


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.

Submission Details

This is an individual assignment. You may not work in groups. Your completed assignment is due on Sun Apr 3, by 11:59pm. We will be discussing submissions in class, so be sure to avoid a late submission!

To submit your assignment, create a new wiki page with a title of the form:


Your submission page should include your write up and a copy of your visualization in a standard image file format (JPG, PNG, or GIF). To upload images to the wiki, first create a link for the image of the form [[Image:image_name.jpg]] (replacing image_name.jpg with a unique image name for use by the server). This will create a link you can follow that will then allow you to upload the image. Alternatively, you can use the "Upload file" link in the toolbox to upload the image first, and then subsequently create a link to it on your wiki page. See the example I created here

You should also create a link to your submission in the list below. The first entry in the list is an example.

Add a link to your finished assignment here

One you are finished editing the page, add a link to it here with full name as the link text. The wiki syntax will look like this: *[[A1-FirstnameLastname|Firstname Lastname]]. Hit the edit button for this section to see how I created the link for my name.