The amount and complexity of information produced in science, engineering, business, and everyday human activity is increasing at staggering rates. The goal of this course is to expose you to visual representation methods and techniques that increase the understanding of complex data. Good visualizations not only present a visual interpretation of data, but do so by improving comprehension, communication, and decision making.

In this course you will learn how the human visual system processes and perceives images, good design practices for visualization, methods for visualization of data from a variety of fields, and programming of interactive web-based visualizations using D3.

This website is for both the Harvard college CS 171 course and the Harvard Extension School CSCI E-171 course.

Enrollment: We do not restrict enrollment for CS 171. For CSCI E-171 (the extension school class), we admit 40 Extension school students.
DCE students: Course enrollment is on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Instructor and TFs

Hanspeter Pfister (Instructor)
Johanna Beyer (Instructor)

Course Sessions

Lectures & Labs:
College students: Monday and Wednesday 2:15-3:30pm, Location: 114 Western Ave, Room 2111+2112

DCE students: Monday (7:00-8:30pm) and Thursday (7:00-7:45pm), online video conference.

Office Hours:
Office hours are posted here.

Lecture Resources:
Discussion forum (acces via Canvas) Materials and grades on Canvas

Teaching Fellows

  • Zhutian Chen - Postdoctoral Fellow, Visual Computing Group
  • Diana Feng - PhD Student, Education (Learning, Innovation and Education Lab)
  • Johannes Knittel - Postdoctoral Fellow, HDSI
  • Sijia (Nancy) Li - Master in Data Science
  • Teddy Lin - CS Concentrator, Harvard College
  • Ethan McFarlin - CS Concentrator, Harvard College
  • Richard Morello - Data Science MLA, Harvard DCE
  • Robert Roessler - Data Scientist & BI Engineer, Codametrix
  • Sophie Webster - Computational Researcher, Broad Institute Cancer Program


  • Jakob Troidl PhD Candidate, Visual Computing Group
  • Siva S Thangaraj - Solution Architect

Previous Years

2022 Fall Website

2021 Fall Website

2020 Fall Website

2019 Fall Website

2018 Fall Website

2017 Fall Website

2016 Fall Website

2016 Spring Website

2015 Website 2015 Video Archive

2014 Website 2014 Video Archive

2013 Video Archive

2012 Video Archive