Lab: Design alternatives

In this week’s lab, we will focus on visualisation design alternatives. For this assignment, we will not use the computer. Instead we will work with pen and paper.

The goals of this lab are:

  • Explore multiple ways to represent a given data set
  • Consider the different tasks supported by different visualisations
  • Use sketches to explore design alternatives

With that in mind, let’s get started.

Part 1: Design exploration (20 minutes)


Dept. Q1 Budget Q1 Actual Q2 Budget Q2 Actual Q3 Budget Q3 Actual Q4 Budget Q4 Actual
Distribution 390 000 375 000 395 000 382 000 400 000 390 000 410 000 408 000
Facilities 675 000 693 000 800 000 837 000 750 000 713 000 750 000 790 000
Human Resources 350 000 346 000 350 000 342 000 350 000 340 000 350 000 367 000
Information Systems 950 000 925 000 850 000 890 000 875 000 976 000 900 000 930 000

Using the data set above, individually sketch as many different representations of the data as you can think of. The goal here is to come up many representations of the same data.

After about 20 minutes, we will compare the different kinds of representations you all come up with.

Part 2: Ideation worksheets (about 30 minutes)

Gather into your project groups. This time, we’ll still work individually on the data set you have chosen for your group project to create design worksheets for at least three design requirements for your project.

Think about the different questions someone working with your data might have. What are the challenges associated with answering those different types of questions? (You may find it useful to draw upon what we saw in class last week about infovis tasks.)

For each question:

  1. Describe the task or the requirement you are addressing.
  2. Draw a sketch of how you might address that task or requirement. Focus on the big idea rather than the specific details of the design.
  3. Draw another sketch that addresses the same requirement from a different perspective. This should be a new representation; do not just build off the previous sketch.
  4. Draw yet another sketch that addresses the same requirement or task.
  5. (If you have more ideas, feel free to add more sketches.)
  6. Make a table at the bottom that shows what works well (+) and what doesn’t work well (-) for each of the 3+ designs.

You should have at least three sheets of paper, each of which focusses on a different task or design requirement. Here is an example of a blank design worksheet to give you an idea of what we’re looking for (you don’t need to use pre-printed worksheets for this exercise).

Part 3: Comparing ideas (about 30 minutes)

Now, with your group members, go through each of your design worksheets. Can you identify ways to combine the different designs?

What to hand in

There are two parts of this assignment that you will hand in. For Lab 4, you will hand in (via the Moodle) a scan of the different sketches you made in Part 1.

You will use Parts 2 & 3 to help prepare your design document for Project Milestone 2.


Creative Commons License Based on assignments by Marti Hearst, Tamara Munzner, Alex Endert. Data courtesy Alex Endert. Ideation worksheet by Sean McKenna, Alexander Lex and Miriah Meyer from PDV ’17. This assignment is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.