Mini-project: Baby Names

In this mini-project, we will be working with a data set of baby names in France. It contains the list of all baby names registered in France, year by year, from 1900 through 2019. There are two data sets: one aggregated to the national level, and another with data by department. Your goal is to create 3 different visualizations around these data, each focussed on answering different kinds of questions about the data:

  1. Visualization 1: How do baby names evolve over time? Are there names that have consistently remained popular or unpopular? Are there some that have were suddenly or briefly popular or unpopular? Are there trends in time?
  2. Visualization 2: Is there a regional effect in the data? Are some names more popular in some regions? Are popular names generally popular across the whole country?
  3. Visualization 3 (bonus): Are there gender effects in the data? Does popularity of names given to both sexes evolve consistently? (Note: this data set treats sex as binary; this is a simplification that carries into this assignment but does not generally hold.)

This assignment consists of several parts: in the first part, you will sketch design alternatives for different visualizations that can help address each set of questions. In the second part, you will implement that visualization using one of the tools from the class lab assignments. In the third part, you will refine these solutions.


Your grade will be based on the final implementation that you will hand in at the end and on your participation in the forum. It is based on:

  • Does the visualization convey they answer to all of these questions?
  • Does the visualization clearly convey the answer to each of these questions?
  • Is the visualization clear and does it have good aesthetics?

Week 1: Design sketches

Your final visualization should enable the user to answer all of these questions with a single interactive visualization. If your design does not allow this, try to think of alternative designs that will help do so. The focus here is on design alternatives for your visualizations.

You may hand draw your designs or use software as you prefer. For each visualization, you mayβ€”and are encouraged toβ€”submit more than one solution. In your submission, you should include a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of each design.

What to turn in

Week 2: Initial Implementation

For each of the three visualizations above, choose one to implement, using one of the tools from our class labs. You may use different tools for each of the different visualizations. For example, you could implement Visualization 1 in Altair, Visualization 2 in Tableau, and Visualization 3 in D3. Or some other permutation. Or everything in the same tool.

Each tool has its strengths and limitations. If you need more control over the representation, maybe you’d want to use Altair or D3. If you need more control over the interaction, perhaps you’d need Tableau. If you want to deploy an interactive web app, perhaps you’d want D3.

Hint: The Names hints notebook has some suggestions of some useful auxiliary data sets and shows how to create a chloropleth map in Altair.

What to turn in

This is a two-part submission. The first part of your submission will include:

  • A link to a Git repository with your code. This link will not be shared with your fellow students. Submit your link here.

The second part is a forum post with:

  • For each visualization:
    • A collection of screenshots or short videos demonstrating each.
    • A description of why you think this solution is appropriate and effective at answering these questions.
    • (If you really are stuck answering all these questions in a single visualization, you may submit multiple solutions; be sure to compare and contrast them.)
    • Submit this part as a forum post here.

Week 3: Comparison and refinement

You should now have access to all groups’ forum posts. Read them and look at their solutions. Add any comments on their solutions. Be sure to be positive in addition to suggesting improvements. Think about how to critique a visualization that we saw in class. Note: comments are visible to the whole class and should be individual. Be constructive.

Does what you’ve seen influence the choices you’ve made for your solution? Now go back to your solution and refine it as you wish. That means that you may incorporate ideas that you have seen from the other groups into your original solution.

You won’t turn anything in for this part of the assignment until the next week.

Week 4: Refined solution

You should now have a finalized implementation of your refined solution.

What to turn in: