Computer Science 532E

January-April, 2003


Perceptual Issues in Visual Interface Design



Instructor:    Ronald Rensink

Meetings:      Monday and Wednesday, 11:00-12:30

MacMillan 256

NOTE: First meeting will be Monday, 06 January 2003


This course discusses and applies relevant work in perceptual psychology to the design of advanced visual interfaces and information visualization systems.  Some applications to computer graphics (e.g., rendering and animation) are also covered. The focus of the course is on design constraints and guidelines rather than implementation.  Basic methodology (design and analysis of experiments) is also introduced.

Related Courses:   

CPSC 533C (Topics in Graphics: Visualization – Tamara Munzner)

CPSC 532E and 533C are based on the same textbook, and will be loosely synchronized.  CPSC 533C focuses on task and implementation issues for information visualization, while CPCS 532E focuses on perceptual ones, and has some coverage of interface and graphics issues.  Although students would benefit most by taking both courses, either can be taken on its own.

Projects for CPSC 533C can be used as the basis of the experiments for CPSC 532E.

CPSC 533B (Topics in Graphics: Algorithmic Animation – Michiel van de Panne)

Projects for CPSC 533B can be used as the basis of the experiments for CPSC 532E.


This course is intended for graduate students in Computer Science, Psychology, or related disciplines.  Prior background in interface design (CPSC 444) or computer graphics (CPSC 414) is useful but not essential.  Since the focus of the course is on general principles rather than implementation, expertise in programming is not required.  However, students are expected to be comfortable with existing computer-based interface, visualization, or graphics systems introduced.

Note: Students from outside the Department of Computer Science who wish to register can find instructions at


Course Structure


Hybrid seminar/lecture format.  The first day of each week will be a seminar, with a 35-45 minute presentation by a member of the class on the assigned topic for that day; this presentation should include some discussion of possible applications to interface design / information visualization / computer graphics.  The remainder of that class will provide further discussion of those readings in the context of current research, and further discussion of possible applications.  The second day will generally be a lecture on supplementary material – e.g., related work not covered the first day, related areas of research, techniques for giving presentations, or elements of experimental design.


Primary Text: Information Visualization, by Colin Ware

            Recommended: Vision Science, Stephen E. Palmer

Various other sources will also be used from time to time


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