Data visualisation programmes and qualifications

One of the most frequent questions I have put to me is “what programmes are available for me to study in order to gain a qualification in data visualisation?” but I’ve never felt entirely aware of all the potential undergraduate and postgraduate programmes out there.

Whilst there are a number of short courses and training events out there (as curated by René in his World of Data post), the pace and growth in popularity of this subject has historically not been matched by the provision and availability of programmes at Universities and Colleges.

However, this appears to be changing. Below is a list compiled from reader suggestions and some of my own research presenting a mixture of Undergraduate an Postgraduate programmes and one-off modules offered around the world.

This list will be kept as up to date and comprehensive as possible but if you identify any gaps please send me an email ( with details/links to the programme in question.



Undergraduate Programmes


BA (Hons) Graphic Design | University of Lincoln | England

“Graphic Design is about communication. Our students work with design briefs to create stimulating, challenging, beautiful and effective design solutions – in response to wide ranging communication problems. We strive for our students to be creative, critical and autonomous in their approach to design work so that they are able to communicate with the ‘verve’ that we think makes Lincoln distinctive.”

B.Sc in Communication Design | Augsburg University of Applied Sciences | Germany

Professor Michael Stoll is leading the studytrack informationdesign/infographics within the bachelor-programme in communication design:
“Students who passed the first (and a half) year of basic courses in communication design may choose from a range of studytracks. one is calles informationdesign/infographics. Students normally take one semester at the university, then go abroad either to take courses at one of our partner universites or to have an internship at a major German newspaper, magazine or design agency with an infodesign/infographic department. After this students will return to the studeytrack for an other year (two semesters) and then will work on their final year project for an other semester. We are also planning to rework our master programme newsdesign, to include more infographics and data visualisation. you may expect it to be relaunch by summer 2014.”

BA in Creative Technologies | University of Ulster (Derry) | Northern Ireland

“The BA in Creative Technologies combines industry-relevant digital content development with an inventive engagement in contemporary creative arts practice and creative industries policy. The scope of this course necessitates project-based work across traditional subject boundaries, leading students to develop adaptable creative and technical skills which will equip them for work in a rapidly evolving media landscape.”


BA Information Design | Ohio University | USA

“The Informational Design sequence breaks down into two specializations, Print design and Interactive Design. Students studying Print Design will have a wide knowledge of Information Architecture, Print Design and Layout, Typography and Web/Mobile Design. Students focusing on Interactive Design will cover topics in Information Architecture, Web Design, Animation, Prototyping and Web/Mobile Development.”


Bachelor Computer Science | University of Stuttgart | Germany

“After doing Human-Computer-Interaction in the 4th term, you will complete the modules Computer Graphics and Imaging Science in the 5th term. In the 6th term you select Picture Synthesis, Visualization or even both. In order to prepare the Bachelor Thesis, we recommend to select a seminar and a project from the Institute’s offers.”


Bachelor Interaction Design | Potsdam University of Applied Sciences | Germany

“[Translated] Interface Design at the Fachhochschule Potsdam offers the possibility of one’s own creative unfolding against the backdrop of a demanding professional qualification. The program has a unique profile in the German higher education landscape. Our students learn computer-based products to the world of the human link: conceptual, practical, experimental, aesthetically and responsibly.”

“[Original] Interfacedesign an der Fachhochschule Potsdam bietet die Möglichkeit der eigenen gestalterischen Entfaltung vor dem Hintergrund einer anspruchsvollen beruflichen Qualifikation. Der Studiengang hat ein einzigartiges Profil in der deutschen Hochschullandschaft. Unsere Studenten lernen computerbasierte Produkte mit der Lebenswelt des Menschen zu verknüpfen: konzeptionell, praxisnah, experimentell, ästhetisch und verantwortungsbewusst.”


BA Digital Media | University of the Arts Bremen | Germany

“Our Digital Media study programmes feature a unique combination of design, theory, and technology. The programme offers aspiring designers a thorough grounding in the artistic and functional application of digital media. Combining experimental and artistic elements with applied studies, the programme encourages young designers to reflect on the wider social context and repercussions of new technologies, while equipping them with the know-how to express their artistic vision.”


BA (Hons) Graphic and Media Design | University of the Arts London | England

“This course builds on the rich heritage of graphic design education at LCC while responding to the changing and dynamic nature of design. Learning is innovative and flexible and students can specialise in the areas of Typographic Media, Social Design, Information Graphics and Branding.”


BA (Hons) Graphic Communication with Typography | Plymouth University | England

“Recognised globally, Graphic Communication with Typography focuses on thinking and skills in relation to contemporary understanding of communication and graphic design. The course has three award options in addition to the core award: (1) Identity and Branding, (2) Editorial and Publishing, (3) Information Design”


Undergraduate Modules


COMP3736 Information Visualization and COMP3811 Computer Graphics | University of Leeds | England

Dr Roy Ruddle runs the first of these modules:
“For Undergraduates we run two final year options: The ‘COMP3736 Information Visualization’ is designed for our BSc Information Technology students, the ‘COMP3811 Computer Graphics’ has a lot of material that concerns scientific visualization and is an option on our MEng/BSc Computer Science and MEng/BSc Artificial Intelligence.”


CS 7450 Information Visualization | Georgia Institute of Technology | USA

“Information visualization is a research area that focuses on the use of visualization techniques to help people understand and analyze data. While fields such as scientific visualization involve the presention of data that has some physical or geometric correspondence, information visualization focuses on abstract data without such correspondences such as symbolic, tabular, networked, hierarchical, or textual information sources.”


CS448b Data Visualization | Stanford University | USA

“The world is awash with increasing amounts of data, and we must keep afloat with our relatively constant perceptual and cognitive abilities. Visualization provides one means of combating information overload, as a well-designed visual encoding can supplant cognitive calculations with simpler perceptual inferences and improve comprehension, memory, and decision making. Furthermore, visual representations may help engage more diverse audiences in the process of analytic thinking.”


CS171 Visualization | Harvard University | USA

“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, tools for visualization of data from a variety of fields, collecting data from web sites with Python, and programming of interactive web-based visualizations using D3.”


CS 5764 Information Visualization | Virginia Tech | USA

“This is a research-oriented course. Students survey the state-of-the-art in the field of Information Visualization by reading and discussing many research papers. Lectures involve student presentations, class discussion about assigned readings, and live demos of visualization systems. Class participation is important. Short homework assignments require critical thinking about current visualization tools, and creative design of new visualization ideas. Occasional in-class activities will reinforce readings and lecture materials. Large semester-long projects are the focus of the course. Students work in small groups on research projects that contribute to the state-of-the-art in the field. Students groups write a conference-quality paper and present their project results to the class. These projects provide an excellent opportunity for initiating or continuing thesis research, and can result in conference publication.”


CS 6604 Visual Analytics | Virginia Tech | USA

“Graduate special topics course on Visual Analytics. This course takes a look at the practice of visual analytics, including the use of structured analytic techniques used by practitioners, as well as the research issues in analytical reasoning, visual representations and interaction, and data transformation.”


stat645 | Rice University | USA

“This course will give you the tools to create and critically evaluate data visualisations. We will focus on statistical graphics, graphics that display “statistical” data (observations are in rows and variables in columns), with some forays into the field of information visualisation. What you will gain from this course: (1) an understanding of perceptual principles the underlie graphics; (2) the ability to use these principles to critique graphics and suggest improvements; (3) better skills in R to go from data and a question to a compelling visualisation”


CS294-10 Visualization | University of California, Berkeley | USA

“Visual media are increasingly generated, manipulated, and transmitted by computers. When well designed, such displays capitalize on human facilities for processing visual information and thereby improve comprehension, memory, inference, and decision making. Yet the digital tools for transforming data into visualizations still require low-level interaction by skilled human designers. As a result, producing effective visualizations can take hours or days and consume considerable human effort.”


ITCS 4121/5121 Information Visualization | UNC Charlotte | USA

“Information visualization is the science that unveils the underlying structure of abstract data sets using visual representations that utilize the powerful processing capabilities of the human visual perceptual system. Topics of this course include a) popular multidimensional visualization, tree visualization, graph visualization, and time series data visualization techniques; b) visual perception, cognitive issues, evaluation, as well as other theory and design principles behind information visualization; c) basic interaction techniques such as selection and distortion; evaluation; and d) examples of information visualization applications and systems.”


S637 Information Visualization | Indiana University | USA

“The visual representation of information requires a deep understanding of human perceptual and cognitive capabilities, computer graphics, interface and interaction design, as well as creativity. Information–such as log files reporting access of webpages or paper-citation network data–is typically non-spatial or abstract and needs to be mapped into a physical space that will represent relationships contained in the information faithfully and efficiently. If done successfully, visualizations can provide a very intuitive and efficient “interface between two powerful information processing systems – the human mind andthe modern computer” (Gershom et al., 1998). This course provides an overview about the state of the art in the field of information visualization. It will highlight the process of producing effective visualizations that take the needs of users into account and illustrate practical visualization procedures.”


Information Visualization | Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg | Germany

“Learning objectives and competencies: (1) Understanding and basic knowledge in the field of human perception and cognitive abilities, (2) Applicable knowledge of essential techniques in interactive information visualization, (3) Ability to select and develop suitable visualization and interaction techniques dependent on tasks and users, (4) Systematic analysis and evaluation of existing solutions for information visualization, (5) Genereal knowledge in the field of scientific working”


Visual Analytics for Business Intelligence | Singapore Management University | Singapore

“In this course, you will learn how to use visual analytic techniques and tools to interact with data of different formats from various sources, explore the expected relationships and discover unexpected correlations and patterns. You will also learn how to design cutting-edge visual analytics systems and conduct usability study on visual analytics systems (You can see recent group projects here).”


Postgraduate Programmes


MPS in Information Visualization | Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) | USA

“MICA’s MPS in Information Visualization prepares students from a variety of fields to translate their existing skills to the visualization industry and related areas. The first such MPS of its kind offered by an art college, the program was created specifically for artists and designers as well as professionals working in fields where the management of complex data through visualization is essential-including architecture, urban planning, homeland security, health, social networking, business, and more.”


MA in Journalism | University of Miami | USA

“The Department of Journalism and Media Management offers a Master of Arts degree in Journalism. The program is an intensive combination of academic study and hands-on practice designed to develop competitive, high-level, cross-platform digital storytelling skills appropriate for today’s media landscape. Students take a common core of courses designed to provide a foundation in all aspects of contemporary journalism. Beyond that, students have the opportunity to focus their work in a particular area of study, including broadcast journalism, news and feature writing, and various aspects of multimedia journalism. Through a combination of journalism courses and related courses offered by other programs, students may also concentrate some of their work in particular areas of interest (e.g., sports reporting, journalism for social change or international journalism). The program begins in the fall semester and lasts for 18 months. No prior training or experience in journalism is required.”


MRes in Advanced Spatial Analysis and Visualisation | University College London | England

“The MRes in Advanced Spatial Analysis and Visualisation at UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) started in September 2011. The course is designed to reflect the latest developments in spatial data analysis and visualisation reflecting CASA’s reputation in the fields of geographic, urban and architectural information systems. This innovative course provides an exciting opportunity to study at UCL with an MRes acting as a pathway to a PhD or further career in Advanced Spatial Analysis and Visualisation (ASAV).”


MFA Interactive Media | University of Miami | USA

“The University of Miami Interactive Media program aims to prepare a new generation of innovators and leaders in the field of interaction design. Its mission is to explore the use of technology, design, human behavior, and their impact on communication. The multidisciplinary curriculum brings together students from different backgrounds to learn about gaming, mobile, data visualization, interaction design, and other emerging technologies. The program trains students to research, prototype, design, and build projects in business, social, academic, and cultural contexts.”


MSc Advanced Computer Science (Data Analytics) | University of Leeds | England

“This course will equip you with the advanced algorithm and programming skills needed to work in data analytics, and the freedom to specialize on particular kinds of data, including text analysis and data mining (online data, health informatics, and business), images (medical applications), and scientific computing and visualization (engineering and science). It also provides you with exposure to other cutting-edge technologies (cloud and mobile applications).”


MA Interactive Design | Ohio University | USA

“The Informational Design sequence breaks down into two specializations, Print design and Interactive Design. Students studying Print Design will have a wide knowledge of Information Architecture, Print Design and Layout, Typography and Web/Mobile Design. Students focusing on Interactive Design will cover topics in Information Architecture, Web Design, Animation, Prototyping and Web/Mobile Development.”


MFA Interaction Design | School of Visual Arts | USA

“In the first year, students learn the concepts and methods of interaction design, starting with an understanding of people and the environments that drive their needs, goals and experiences. During the second year, students apply the concepts and methods from the first year of study to shape their thesis projects.”


MA Interactive Journalism | City University London | England

“City’s Interactive Journalism MA will prepare you to work in the rapidly-changing environment of online journalism, with a focus on two key areas: data journalism and community management. You will develop these online specialisations alongside essential journalistic skills of writing, reporting, newsgathering, interviewing and features – core elements of City’s renowned Journalism MA programme. Journalism is changing to engage people more as active participants and less as passive consumers. This course prepares you for roles that reflect this change to a more interactive approach.”


MSc by Research Visual Analytics | Middlesex University | England

“Visual analytics is a key requirement of the early 21st century. As our human activity generates rapidly increasing amounts of new data every day, there is an urgent need to make sense of it and a huge potential to elicit new knowledge and insights from it. World events and phenomena like climate change, 9/11, global finance systems and public health are data rich and increasingly complex. Visual analytics turns large and complex, data sets into interactive visualisations that can prompt visceral comprehension and moments of insight that are compelling and offer an unparalleled richness of possibility for data analysts. In this uncharted world of boundless data, visual analytics is providing our new maps and new ways of navigating. Data analytics is recognised as a key trend that will have a major impact on the IT and Communications industry in the next 5 years”


Information Experience Design | Royal College of Art | England

“The IED programme is rooted in research, with a cultural and independent creative outlook, supporting practice that is not restricted by industry expectations. This is not a programme for students whose primary practice is limited to predictable patterns of styling information delivery, nor is it designed to promote ambitions that are overtly commercially prescribed or autobiographical. The ambition of the programme is that it becomes a global focal point for research and the place where the key ideas and future forms at the intersection of information design and experience design are imagined.”


Interactive Telecommunications Program | New York University | USA

“ITP is a two-year graduate program located in the Tisch School of the Arts whose mission is to explore the imaginative use of communications technologies — how they might augment, improve, and bring delight and art into people’s lives. Perhaps the best way to describe us is as a Center for the Recently Possible.”


MA Digital Media | University of the Arts Bremen | Germany

“Our Digital Media study programmes feature a unique combination of design, theory, and technology. The programme offers aspiring designers a thorough grounding in the artistic and functional application of digital media. Combining experimental and artistic elements with applied studies, the programme encourages young designers to reflect on the wider social context and repercussions of new technologies, while equipping them with the know-how to express their artistic vision.”


MA Communication Design | University of the Arts London | England

“Like us, you view communication as a profound achievement of human evolution. It could be you’re investigating today’s significant communication design questions and engaging with ideas that will radically alter the current terrain. You may already have relationships with research bodies confronting key issues in your field. What you now seek is a laboratory for experimentation and sustained academic discourse.”


MA Information Design | University of Reading | England

“This course builds a base of knowledge, experience and skills for the reflective practice of design. You learn to observe, evaluate and analyse to support your creative practice. Projects range from dealing with complex texts, to design support for wayfinding, to instruction and procedural explanations.”


Masters in Graphic Design | IED Barcelona | Spain

“The Master in Graphic Information Design of IED Barcelona proposes to explore new path with the aim of setting visual communication strategies that allow the emission of contents (information) in a clearer, more efficient and more attractive manner on several platforms.”


Postgraduate Modules


Interactive Information Visualization | University of Paris Sud | France

“As the amount of on-line data is growing faster than the speed of computers to process them, it becomes harder and harder to analyze this data and to understand it both at a global level and a smaller scales. Such understanding is nevertheless a necessary prerequisite to any decision process. The goal of Information Visualization is to create visual representations that allow users to understand abstract data and to provide users with interaction capabilities that are designed to efficiently navigate and analyze these representations.
The course presents the most recent works in this research domain by successively looking at the various types of visualizations according to the type of data being analyzed: tabular data, hierarchical data, graphs, texts.”


CMSC 734 Information Visualization | University of Maryland | USA

“What is information visualization? How is it related to scientific visualization? How does it combine with data mining? Information visualization is emerging as an important fusion of graphics, scientific visualization, database, and human-computer interaction. Dozens of innovative visualizations for 1-, 2-, 3-, and multi-dimensional data have been proposed, along with creative designs for temporal, hierarchical, and network data. This course will examine the design alternatives (overviews, dynamic queries, zooming, etc.), algorithms and data structures, coordinated views, plus human factors evaluations of efficacy for a variety of tasks and users. Students will read current literature and conduct collaborative projects to design, implement, apply, and/or evaluate existing or novel visualizations. Mid-term and final exams will be given, so the course qualifies for MS and PhD comps.”


MAT259 Visualizing Information | University of California, Santa Barbara | USA

“A lecture and lab course to explore the visual organization of information. Lectures, readings and technical demos will focus on a range of conceptual models of data visual mapping as implemented in various disciplines, artistic, statistical and scientific.. There are 3 projects to realize: 2D linear frequency mapping; 2D spatial treemap; 3D spatial, or time-based animation. Course requires 2 reference books: Ben Fry’s is online, and there is a desk copy for the Graphics of Large Datasets by Unwin, etc. See other recommended references at end of syllabus.”


Programa de postgrado de Visualización de la Información | Universitat Pompeu Fabra | Spain

[Translated]“The information visualization (InfoVis) is an emerging discipline that aims to amplify cognition (the transformation of information into knowledge), using the brain’s innate abilities to detect patterns in perceptual stimuli, especially in vision. In the information society, we live flooded by large volumes of data and interpretation of difficult digestion. Using visualization techniques can greatly improve the understanding and analysis of the vast amounts of data that surround us today in any activity and thereby discover patterns that otherwise would be very complicated to find and communicate efficiently existing knowledge. The Graduate Program Information Display (DVI) provides students with the concepts and skills as well as the basic tools to move from raw data to information and from this to the graphical display of the most effective way to get an understanding of patterns (knowledge discovery) underlying the data or the actual transmission of existing knowledge to our audience, maximizing the cognitive qualities of our brain. By its very design, is a program cross aimed at professionals from any discipline in which the conversion of information into knowledge is a relevant fact.”

“[Original] La visualización de la información (InfoVis) es una disciplina emergente que pretende amplificar la cognición (la transformación de información en conocimiento), utilizando las capacidades innatas del cerebro para detectar patrones en los estímulos perceptivos, especialmente en la visión. En la sociedad de la información, vivimos inundados por grandes volúmenes de datos de difícil digestión e interpretación. Mediante técnicas de visualización es posible mejorar ampliamente la comprensión y el análisis de la ingente cantidad de datos que nos rodean hoy en día en cualquier actividad y, con ello, descubrir patrones que, de otra manera, sería muy complejo hallar y comunicar de forma eficiente el conocimiento ya existente. El Programa de postgrado de Visualización de la Información (DVI) proporciona al estudiante los conceptos teóricos y prácticos, así como las herramientas básicas para pasar de los datos en bruto a la información y de esta a la visualización gráfica de la forma más efectiva, para conseguir la comprensión de los patrones (descubrir el conocimiento) subyacentes en los datos o la transmisión efectiva de un conocimiento existente a nuestra audiencia, aprovechando al máximo las cualidades cognitivas de nuestro cerebro. Por su propia concepción, es un programa transversal dirigido a los profesionales de cualquier disciplina en la que la conversión de información en conocimiento sea un hecho relevante.”


Other Qualifications


Certificate in Data Visualisation | Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology [IADT] | Ireland

“For the purposes of Data Visualisation, processing information involves analysis and communication. Information is analysed to assess the presence of interesting patterns and structures in data while the results of this analysis need to be communicated effectively. This course seeks to improve the efficiency of information processing by offering a visual, practical and hands-on approach to the analysis and communication of data. This facilitates the transformation of data into knowledge. The course is suitable for individuals involved in the collection, analysis or interpretation of data, as well as for those responsible for the communication of data to a range of audiences.”


Certificate in Analytics and Data Visualization | NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies | USA

“Today, big data is a universal priority, given its impact on industries like healthcare, journalism, finance, and science. Large data sets must be analyzed and visualized by forming and asking key questions and then by organizing the data to answer those questions. The analytics provide meaningful patterns in the data, and data visualization communicates the information clearly through graphical means. In this certificate program, students learn how communication links big data, storytelling, and design, while also facilitating the processing, organization, analysis, and visualization of data for various industry applications. Students explore the interplay of statistics, computer science, and visual graphics within the concepts, tools, and industry applications of this integrated, multidisciplinary program.”

Also check out this Google Map of Interaction Design programmes


Andy KirkMarch 7th, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Getting some great suggestions – will try to find time to incorporate them all over the next 24 hours…

miaMarch 12th, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Any online programs?

Andy KirkMarch 12th, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Yes, the MICA masters is online (I’m teaching on it in the summer) otherwise I don’t know of the above which (if any) are. Beyond that it is the MOOCs of Alberto Cairo and Katy Börner.

vpsMarch 14th, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Hello! I really love this blog. Please tell me – from where do you have information for ths blog?

Andy KirkMarch 14th, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Hello vps! You wouldn’t be spam would you? No, course you aren’t. In which case, here’s the secret to my extraordinary success: I get my information from the village elders. They have great wisdom about these matters and they will impart it so long as you never look them directly in the eye during the hours of daylight… (don’t tell anyone, it’s our secret)