IDV Studio 2 Syllabus


Every day Twitter users compose more than 500 million tweets, and Instagram users upload more than 58 million photos. Social platforms organize individuals around shared values and common concerns, sometimes with profound effect. Torrents of social data cry out for innovative visual interpretations. We can explore how new ideas gain cultural salience by designing these experiences.

In this studio we will transform social data into visual experiences about people, places, and ideas. We will extract timelines of images, locations, sentiments, and relationships. These timelines will open up doors for new stories, and prompt us to ask new questions. How do ideas born in social media enter mass media and our political discourse? What cultural events precipitate these ideas? Which ideas maturate into social movements?

Software sketching is an important practice for those who wish to communicate with data. This studio will teach the required software development practices as an integrated part of our of design process. Little prior coding familiarity is assumed. Students will be using JavaScript to explore data, and draw interactive graphics using D3 or similar toolkits. Students will need to understand fundamental programming concepts and data structures.


Students will leave this course knowing how to create and publish rich interactive data experiences on a schedule. They will be comfortable sketching and presenting rough ideas for feedback. They will favor an iterative design process to refine ideas and meet deadlines. Students will be able to articulate design decisions made during project planning meetings.


The first five weeks of this studio build an experience with tools, and practices critical to completing a final capstone project. In this period, students explore data design challenges in a low risk environment. Fast iterations establish a processes and cadence required for completing final projects. We begin our design challenges sets together in class to address new technical hurdles. Students finish the exercises outside of class, preparing for a discussion the following week.

In the last five weeks of this course, we shift our emphasis to the production of the capstone project. The daily schedule is the same, but we trim technical demonstrations to make more time for charette and production.

Reading and viewing materials will also be assigned. We discuss these materials to encourage new directions for exploration.

Over the course of 11 weeks each student will also lead a short critique on a data design they found in the wild. We use these show and tell sessions to hone our communication skills and to foster new ideas. In these presentations, students should:


Students will show continuous improvement in their ability to execute and defend their design solutions.

The grading system follows the University Policies.


Students will abide by Northeastern University’s Academic Integrity Policy.


Students are expected to attend all classes. Absence for health or personal reasons should be communicated to the lecturer. Tardiness and unexcused absences will impact student grades.


  1. Jan 11 Orientation: Introductions, overview, agreement, processes. Publishing workflow using a text editor, HTML, CSS, and git.
  2. Jan 25 Drawing with code: Introduction to key programming concepts using JavaScript and Processing. We learn to make digital marks and cover: variables, lists, conditionals, loops, and functions. Presentation by Erica.
  3. Feb 1 Parametric design: We look at abstraction and how we can express variables in graphic dimensions using D3 and SVG. We review the interaction design mantra and gestalt principles along the way.
  4. Feb 8 Data: Snow Day. Class was cancelled but we met on Slack, and carried on.
  5. Feb 22 Projects in Social Visualization: A review of significant works within our domain. We conduct a design lab and charette for project proposals. Presentations from Lucy.
  6. Feb 29 Project proposals: Students present their proposals and mockups for initial review. We refine them in class. Presentations from Lorzenzo, Sever, Cara.
  7. Mar 14 Challenges: Students discuss the greatest challenges they face in their chosen project. We address technical fears and challenges together in the class, and begin working on our prototypes. Presentations from June and Andrew.
  8. Mar 21 Work: Studio work. Solving problems. Making Prototypes. Presentations from Kimi and Jiani.
  9. Mar 28 Midterm review: Students present prototypes of their final projects for review. Key technical challenges should be addressed or hidden by means of fakery, so we can focus on the visual design in critique.
  10. Apr 4 Blockers and words of advice: A last call to mitigate any remaining technical design challenges that threaten the final project. Presentations from Jessie and Patric.
  11. Apr 11 Refinement: At this point no substantial changes should be happening. We are only tightening the presentation of the designs. A discussion about our mutual expectations. Presentation from Ryan, Navi, and Lia.
  12. Apr 25 ★ Final project presentations !

Weekly Structure



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