Thursday, November 7, 2013

student makeovers

This fall, I had the pleasure of teaching Intro to Information Visualization for MICA's MPS in Information Visualization. It was a 4-week course, where we explored some fundamentals of data visualization and storytelling as it relates to communicating effectively with data.

The course was unique from my typical workshops in a number of ways. It was great to get to start to know the students during our time together. Perhaps the most exciting difference for me was being able to see the lessons we covered put to use in homework assignments.

One of the assignments was a visual makeover, where students were asked to select a less-than-stellar visualization from the media, identify the underlying story and create a new and improved visual using data together with narrative to tell an effective visual story. I had a great time reviewing the before-and-afters. I thought I'd share this fun with you by posting some of them here (with my students' permission; I realize the snippets below are a little small - and my process for getting images onto my blog has started to create a sort of strange grey background, so if you want to see bigger non-grey-background versions, you can download the PDF here). Enjoy!

Makeover 1: bird feeder location  by Kevin Ripka |

Makeover 2: youth programs  by Brittney Younger

Makeover 3: NYC refuse  by Marianne Siblini

Makeover 4: BB Finale  by John Breakey |

Makeover 5: climate change  by Jennifer A. Stark

Makeover 6: prezi growth  by Jess Mireau |

Big thanks to the students above for agreeing to let me post their work, and to the overall class for making my first time teaching at the graduate level an incredibly rewarding experience!


  1. Thanks for sharing! Very interesting. And great job to the students for trying to think creatively. Question on #4 (Breakey): John, what do the two colors (blue and grey) mean in the first chart - how Walter will die? I think it is confusing to use differences in color if the differences in color don't mean anything..

  2. This looks like a really valuable (and fun) exercise. I particularly liked example 1 because it's the sort of data most people would plop into a column chart.

  3. Thanks for posting this - good to see students thinking along the correct lines, and it goes to show that with a little thought as to the narrative/story the graphic can be made to be much more effective and clear