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.

Limited enrollment: To provide the best possible learning experience this course has limited enrollment. We only admit 80 college students and 40 Extension school students.
College students: If you are interested in joining this course please complete HW 0 and the enrollment survey on our Canvas page. The deadline for the enrollment survey is Aug 24th. You will be notified about your enrollment on the 25th and have to confirm enrollment by end of day of Aug 25th or your spot will be given away. DCE students: Course enrollment is on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Cross-registering college students: To get access to the course’s Canvas page you will have to 1) get an XID here; 2) send an e-mail to with the subject ‘Canvas ID’; 3) the e-mail needs to contain your Name, e-mail and XID.

Instructor and TFs

Hanspeter Pfister (Instructor)
Johanna Beyer (Head TF)

Course Sessions

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

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

Office Hours:
Office hours are posted here.

Lecture Resources:
Discussion forum on Edstem - TBA
Materials and grades on Canvas

Teaching Fellows

  • Carolina Nobre - Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Simon Warchal - Phd Candidate, Visual Computing Group
  • Kidist Alemu - Computer Science concentrator (MBB)
  • Rucha Joshi - Statistics concentrator
  • Sophia Sun - Statistics concentrator
  • Elizabeth Ling - Computer Science concentrator
  • Rebecca Brand - Master in Design Engineering ‘23
  • Anya Zinoveva - DCE TF
  • Amy Zhou - DCE TF
  • Ray Ortigas - DCE TF

Previous Years

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