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Opening Reception

Thursday, April 27 @ 5PM

Gallery 360 (directions)

The Master of Fine Arts in Information Design and Visualization is the first MFA program in the country entirely dedicated to information design and data visualization. Our interdisciplinary program trains students to harness visual languages to communicate about socially relevant issues, taking full advantage of the incredible breadth of research opportunities at Northeastern University.

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Maaria Assami

Visualizing the Forgotten

The Syrian conflict is the worst humanitarian crisis of modern history. But, with that reputation, the information visualizations representing this crisis have been accompanied with a voice that tends to be a more inhumane and neutral one. The representations are often done using graphic languages that are used to display statistical and quantitative information.

This thesis humanizes information visualizations by employing individuality, subjectivity, and empathy. This will function as a vehicle to spread awareness about the crisis as a whole, rather than portraying blanket-statement statistics and overall view portrayals, which we have become numb to.

This thesis’ first application is a book titled Visualizing the Forgotten. In this book, the history of the Syrian crisis is encapsulated since its ignition. The book sheds light on the various elements, like historical factors and political events for example, involved in this crisis. It also contains interactive visualizations that focus on three journeys of three different refugees. By centering on the point of view of one refuge at a time, the visualizations will be more humanized, and, in return, is more impactful and powerful than any statistical graph or chart. The Syrian crisis is specifically addressed. Ultimately, however, an awareness for the worldwide refugee crisis will evolve by proxy.

The second application based on this thesis comes in the form of a sculpture. It uses cards that are stacked in piles embodying the catastrophic number of Syrian casualties. The pile of cards hold an accurate number of circles which represents the accurate number of deaths that occurred up until the date of this exhibition.

Lucy G. Green

Objects of Color

This thesis is an exploration of the materiality of emitted and reflected color spaces. There is a chasm between the print and digital views of an image that is problematic when one is meant to mirror the other. The contribution of this thesis is to flesh out the full extent of the technology and to acknowledge the chasm that still exists. Innovation is created when one understands the complexity and limitation of a subject. Historically, with color, innovation has come from the material of color, be they pigment or screen. Innovation is much needed to bridge this chasm.

The dichotomy between color spaces also brings forth the dichotomy between theory and thing. If we spin off into theory, we lose the sense experience. Thus the materiality is crucial to ground us in our original sense experience of color. For this reason I have based this presentation in photographic images to remind us not of models and graphs but of color itself, as it occurs to us naturally. In exploration of these materials, the flip from intuition to math, and back again is fleshed out and hopefully rendered less painful. Each of the artifacts created in defense of this thesis has the objective of opening a previously unknown door to a subject that we consider rote. The objective is of experiencing anew, and therefore, revitalizing the viewers experience of color.

Erica Gunn

Talking Dirt

Communicating interdependence is one of the biggest challenges that scientists face when they want to share their work with the public.In an interdependent system, changing just one thing a ects everything else, and even small changes can have global impacts. To demonstrate this challenege, my thesis focuses on introducing people to soil, a valuable ecosystem that we often just don’t see. Many of the most fascinating soil processes happen out of sight and underground, outside the range of our daily lived experience. Yet soil provides most of the food we eat, feeds almost every plant we see, and plays a vital role in supporting global ecosystems. My thesis explores the importance of soil, and some of the ways that it interacts with human activities. This exhibition focuses on how soil shows up in our daily lives, and how we experience it. You can  nd more information on the interactive webpage for the project at For now, ask yourself: what does soil mean to you?

Suyuan Ji

Data Face: Translating Data into Abstract Face and Explore its Limitations and Advantages 

This study attempts to explore how the data can be presented by face components. From semiotic perspectives, biological components of a face can form the particularly symbols and signs to distinguish a data. In this study, the process of creating a code on a face explains the relationship between signs and signification in terms of abstract face conveying different information to express emotions.

This study applies a few cases to explain how the abstract face transforms different dataset to express the world such as Chernoff faces. Throughout testing designed to investigate the creativity of the idea in this study, experiments have been conducted to examine whether the results from this study is consistency with the findings of previous studies.

When people open a database, create a table, or add a few fields in the format of graphics, multi-platform application with a modern-looking approach may be used for descriptive interpretation. This is exactly what this paper aims to realize in the area of information visualization. Exactly speaking, it’s to creating a model, by using faces made of data, to represent and analyze the dataset, which will be in reference to human face. It means that how to use face parameters to cluster the messages conveyed in the visualizing data is considered as the packet of code to present data by faces made of data.

Xingyue Li

Visualizing Invisible Data — the impact of Chinese Internet censorship on online public opinions using social media data

The thesis is a research project that visualizes the differences of public opinions in various Internet ecology, taking Chinese Internet censorship as an example.

The focus of the project is designing methodologies/experiments and developing a data visualization showing the impact of the Information manipulation.

The aim of the thesis is to create a visualization to show what is the shape of the invisible wall, primarily the influence of Internet censorship, by taking the Great Firewall of China as the example.

The target audience of this visualization are people who are interested in Internet censorship or people living inside of the wall and outside of the wall who are not aware of the invisible wall. Audiences would have a better understanding of Internet censorship and generate their opinions by exploring the network visualization and case study differences.

The visualization would be web-based application so that users can share this project on social network pages. It introduces the history of Internet of censorship and visualization of case study analysis. The audience would realize that information manipulation exists and close to their daily life.

Kini Luo

Data Diary with Bots: Unmasking the Identity of Computer Programs Called “Chatbots”

The technology advancements in the field of artificial intelligence progressively leverage the performances of Bots, making them better at “imitation game” (Turing, 1950). However, in regardless of how they behaved, their essential identity is machine. This identity gives them super powers so that they can do something that is hard for a human to accomplish, for example, generating more than 500 tweets every hour and keep doing this for months. 

The two visualizations shared the same goal: unmask the identity of bots through data visualization, so that we can gain back autonomy of our own opinions. 

The first visualization is shown in four booklets, presenting the empathy map of the conversations I had with four commercial Chatbots. Besides revealing the functional ability and affective capacity these Chatbots have, it also suggests that, Chabots have the potential to be used as a branding and marketing tools for businesses. This is because Chatbots can be carefully designed with specific identities that are consistent with the brand identity.  

The second visual experiment shown on the poster visualizes a part of invisible network on twitter that is filled with highly suspicious twitter accounts who started as real human user but gradually displayed bots and semi-bots behaviors. It entails question about the identity of Bots: how some of these accounts became twitter bots accounts from real human users? Who changes them and with what reasons? Are we certain about the account we are look at is a bot or a human user? This visualization helps to realize how complex it could be when we try to differentiate Bots from real human users. How difficult it is to make validate the sources of the information we absorbed.

Ryan Morrill

Metaphors in Organization: I Organized Rocks to Better Understand How We Understand the World

This project is part of larger thesis titled Breaking the Bar Chart: Why Chart Types are Holding Us Back and How Metaphors Can Help. The thesis presents a process for visualizing data that focuses on the act of organizing and transforming metaphorical entities.

The project presented here focused specifically on the metaphors we use to organize these entities (e.g., family relationships). The premise was simple: by reorganizing actual entities—rocks found on the beach—what can we learn about our methods of organization, the metaphors that govern them, and how that affects our understanding of the world?

By applying different metaphors, we can create new organizational structures. These new organizational structures are models—or visualization forms—that either hide or reveal relationships between the rocks. By simply applying new metaphors, we learn something new about the things we are organizing.

Patrick J. O’Donnel

Delighting Spaces

What if spaces had memory? What if they showed us they remembered?

Somewhere between installation art and smart environment, Delighting Spaces is a project to implement an immersive ambient visualization along a section of the Northeastern University tunnel system. A recent renovation in the tunnels installed state-of-the-art lighting, but it over accomplishes its foremost goal. It’s almost too bright. The device that produces the visualization will be modulating the hallway’s light source—or partially de-lighting the space. Immersive colors and patterns projected on the walls and the floor will provide an interactive experience appropriate for passersby using the tunnels.

This projected animation presents a diagrammatic conceptualization of the mentioned . Outfitted with sensors and a computer, the motion of an inhabitant walking down the hallway is collected and analyzed. This data from the past twenty-four hours dictates the activity of motors, connected to lenses and filters, that flank the overhead tube lighting. Thus, the use of passageway, and the memory of inhabitants past, drives the feedback loop ad infinitum. The result is an immersive visualization of color and pattern that changes with the rhythmicity of the campus. The experience is for the people who travel through it, because they travelled through it. Projects that bridge the gap between art and design—like Delighting Spaces—have the ability to shape not only space, but the inhabitants themselves.

Memores acti prudentes futuri. Mindful of things done, aware of things to come.

The device is under development and, with assistance and guidance from the Public Arts Initiative, will be premiering during the Summer of 2017.

Lia Petronio

Typologies of Twitter Traffic: Mass Shootings in the USA

I have studied twitter traffic provoked by mass shootings in the United States in the Fall of 2016.

The techniques I developed permit an examination of the data from over three million tweets to determine the nature of the language and the patterns of propagation as the messages are circulated.

Analyzing the content and distribution of these messages confirms conventional ideas about how news travels, and the headlines of the stories most people know about these events. But looking more closely at the “noise” in the data discloses “communities of interest” or response publics that have differing goals and agendas in contributing to and circulating information. I design data visualization interfaces as tools for qualitative analysis, providing a legible viewpoint from which more deliberate views are made to answer more informed questions. These visual data mining methods can help us to look beyond that which is easily measured or traced, like hashtags and retweets, and explore content in our virtual social worlds for other meaning and significance.

Through these methods, I identify and explore three response publics:

 (1) Event Centric

(2) Exploitive

(3) Peripheral

Their typologies are characterized through analyzing relationships amongst the contents of circulated information, its relation to the shooting event or the context in which the shooting can be situated, and how metadata is leveraged to concentrate attention or create associations.

Jessie Richards


Our world is increasingly collecting data concerning the detrimental effects of food waste, but it can be hard for individuals to understand this information in terms of their own lives. What if we designed experiences that leveraged this global data and applied it on a personal scale? With regard to food, feedback from our daily actions is slow and incredibly infrequent. Facilitating experiences that allow people to recognize and reflect on their behavior, and its adverse effects, can help motivate future positive action.

In the MFA thesis Feedback, varied research and design methods were tested to understand how to relate information through experience — and what about the experience most impacts future behavior. The first explorations involved collecting photographic data to reveal information inherent in food and our habits. Some of this data is featured on the wall. The findings of these explorations led to the design and execution of a 2-week experimental study on food waste in the home.

Through the process of recording their food discards daily, participants became acutely aware of their actions. In the experiment, they were also exposed to information regarding the effects of wasted food in measures they could find personally relevant. After the study, a majority of participants displayed a new knowledge of the inner-workings of our food system, and what part their actions and waste play. To learn more about the results of this study, see the featured tablet.

Yike Si

The Power of Lines – Creating visual rhythms for data relations

Lines are fundamental in design. They have great ability to transform features and flexible contextualization. This flexible nature of lines is a double-edge sword. It increases both the opportunities and challenges for using the lines in information design. For example, lines could be used to represent both quantitative information and geographical information; however, sometimes complex data causes congestion of lines that is obscure for users to understand. There are many approaches to tackle these problems, such as edge-bundling algorithms. These solutions basically simplify visual complexity and abstract data structure. However, Edward Tufte tells us that “Clutter and confusion are failures of design, not attributes of information.” Therefore, today’s solutions are far from satisfactory. My argument is that line congestions could work well if we could design and organize lines with comprehensive structures. This thesis aims to create visual rhythms of lines to articulate different data relations with the goal of initiating further debate on how to improve line congestions.

Andrew Tang

Mapping Contagion: Visualizing cartographic time-series data

This visualization explores the relationship between time and space by using cartographic time-series data to depict change events. The two-dimensional model uses a spatial grid to show location, while the weekly proliferation of travel infected persons in the United States is mapped to the x axis and time onto the y. The three-dimensional model mimics it’s profile from the two-dimensional models while taking advantage of the additional z axis to represent linear time and reserves the x and y axes for locational coordinates.

Irene de la Torre – Arenas

Movements and Transformations

Motion in visualizations is often used as an add-on to the design. This thesis explores the role that motion plays in visualization and reveals that this type of implementation can address four communication goals: portraying data directly through motion; using motion to interpolate through data values; guiding the viewers through the visualization as a storytelling device; and captivating audiences. The ultimate goal of this thesis is to argue that motion in visualizations is not a gratuitous element but, on the contrary, a component that can influence how users interact and understand the design.

A visualization was developed within this thesis to understand the limitations and opportunities of these four implementations of motion: Swimming World Records throughout History. The project visualizes all the swimming world records that have been broken from 1900 to the beginning of 2017 in three different designs. The first design, Competition of Speeds, compares the records through a metaphorical and visual competition; the second, Speed Improvements, focuses on analyzing how much the average speeds of the records have increased in the different swimming events; and the third, Analytical Visualization, offers a more in-depth view of the data, providing information about swimmers’ nationality and records’ total times.

Motion is present in the three designs in different forms, achieving different tasks. The goals of these implementations are that viewers can see how the sport has improved over the years, that they can be captivated by records being broken through time, and that they can interact better through the different ways of sorting and exploring the data.

Muhe Yang

Visualizing Seasonal Change in the Chinese Garden 

Chinese classical gardens, also known as “mountain and forest in city”, are regarded as embodiments of interacting relationships between nature and culture, and also are places rich of various kinds of information.

With the hope of helping audiences to have a better understanding about the Chinese garden, this visualization is one of the two experiments in the thesis Visiting, Picturing and Experiencing the Chinese Garden. Taking the Humble Administrator’s Garden (Zhuo Zheng Yuan, Suzhou, China) as a representative to look into, this work focuses on people’s visual experience, especially seasonal change of colors, through analyzing photos taken in the garden. There are 100 photos collected from Flickr in total, with 25 for each season. Every photo is analyzed to extract three dominant colors and their corresponding percentages by k-­‐means algorithm, and all the colors are plotted clockwise in donut form based on the date when the photo was taken (starting from spring on the top). Each column represents one photo, and the colors are organized from dark to light on the wheel from center to edge. Having the metaphor of seasons cycling all year round, the circular form is able to present continuity of the change of colors.

It is pretty clear to see the gradual and continuous color change from the visualization, where yellowish green colors in spring changes to more vivid and diverse colors in summer and fall, before turning to dark tones in winter. And such change is largely due to the changing color of plants throughout four seasons, which also reflects some unique characteristics of both the garden and the culture behind it.

Yi Yang

Tangible Visualization Toolkit for Making Group Planning Decisions

Physical visualizations exist from the very beginning of human history. Now that we are making all program “paperless” or “digital”, there still are some scenarios will benefit more from physical objects due to their tangibility and their capacity to be grasped and reshaped. The intention of my work is to propose a new visual encoding that maps information to a physical form in order to enhance the efficiency of group planning. I am exploring building up a culturally neutral language that is visually formed so that people from different backgrounds can share basic understanding easily and simultaneously.

My initial experiment is a prototype of a set of physical objects. It contains a magnetic base, a set of information sheets, a vacant transparent sheet, a few markers, and some colored magnetic tokens. By assembling the tokens and changing the data simultaneously, users can easily exchange their decisions and share immediate thoughts with other participants. In other words, I intend to design a visual toolkit as a language to help people engaging more with information and better communicate to other people. Instead of just talking about conflicts and picturing them independently in minds, I am proposing to put them in visual forms so we can point at and in tangible form so we can grasp it and make changes immediately. I hope this project will not only benefit group planning process but also provide a novel way to visualize real-life problems by users themselves and help them make better decisions. My primary contribution is a visualization toolkit design, I also provide an informal user study in order to find usability problems with my prototype.

Xinhe Yu

Visualizing Fashion Buzz, the stories behind the trends

This thesis examines fashion history and analyzes recent social media to identify fashion trends. It also relates new raising fashion styles, and studies how those fashion styles could refer to the whole fashion industry. The study of fashion, Twitter buzz and social network visualization could identify how does trends arising in social media.

The data is based on research into fashion trends and data collected from Twitter and Google. The point of this study is to find the roles of social media in fashion trends, the cultural influence behind all these trends, and to show transformation of the trends through Twitter buzz.

The project for this thesis contains three parts: the first one shows history of one specific fashion style (Flight/Bomber Jacket) by using projection, it is for the comparison of what is the different between trending of that style in social media and history; the second one illustrates the news stories behind five fashion styles by using interactive website page to show the line graphs, shows what is the reason behind trends; and the last one is about spreading of the fashion buzz in both the U.S. and Japan, and these are two interactions of animated maps display the significant changes of fashion buzz in social media.

The results of this thesis are: the fashion leaders, such as celebrities is the reason leads the fashion trends and social media helps trends spread into public quickly.

Jiani Zheng

Daigou: Can A Complex Story Be Told Without Words?

A new figure in the luxury goods market is called Daigou. Through Daigou, customers can enjoy a wider range of product choices and purchase foreign goods at a lower price and higher quality than domestically by using a middleman and possibly avoiding taxes and duties on purchases.

In one experiment, icons were used to describe the Daigou system, I also proposed an online app to help customers become more aware of the Daigou market’s risks. This thesis established that icons are a means to transmitting a complex story. This can help the international community understand the story behind Daigou and potentially eliminate unnecessary risks and illegal rewards in the marketplace for luxury goods. The traditional of wordless storytelling is strong, as the examples reveal, but more could be done to further explore and exploit this universal visual language.