Visualization for Planners (CP 6006)

Visualization for Planners – 33286 – CP 6006
Class 12:30 pm – 3:15 pm West Architecture 358 (little GIS lab)
1 Credit, (~3 hours per week in class, not a lot of out of class work)

This course will be like a ‘studio’ class. Attendance is important. We will learn about different information visualization and geovisualization principles for urban planning each week in lecture and through readings. 

Course Goals and Learning Outcomes

After successfully completing this course, students will:

  • List sources of data and data types for urban planning.
  • Explain why scale and context are important for planners.
  • Describe how the use of symbology, including visual variables like color, size, transparency, are important for visualization.
  • Explain characteristics of data types.
  • Learn how to map quality reference maps and thematic maps.
  • Explain principles of good maps including element hierarchy and design.
  • Create a quality static map and interactive map with linked charts.
  • Understand the needs of data visualizations for the planning community.
  • Describe how principles of data science, user interaction, pre-attentive processing relate to visualizations.
  • Explain where data visualizations are used in planning and how they are used for decision-making and communication to the public.
  • Note the roles of the local government, federal government, international agencies, media, private sector, local community, and academic community in creating visualizations.

Course Requirements & Grading


Weight (Percentage)

Attendance and Professionalism


Basic In-Class Exercises

35% (5 @ 7 each)

Static Map


Interactive Map



There is no textbook associated with this course but we will be relying on articles from the UCGIS Book of Knowledge. In terms of textbooks, I recommend Designing Better Maps by C. Brewer and Thematic Cartography and Geovisualization by T. Slocum. These are both amazing books.

We will also use a number of primary sources in class discussion. They will be assigned on Canvas, but a few are listed here:
EPA: ATLANTIC STATION (Project XL and Atlantic Steel)


1 Are you there, data? It’s me, an urban planner.Census data and scale (Tract, Block Group, Block, TAZ, County…). A friendly legend. A scale bar.  Census Data Maps (visualizing change, deviation from mean, and raw numbers)none
2Data types and representation. Data binning strategies. (#Binning!)Nominal: Zoning Data; Ordinal: Soil Quality; Diverging and Sequential Ramps. Hierarchy and prominence.    City Zoning MapsCensus outlines
3Basemaps, and Themes, Fonts, Labels, Symbols, AccessibilityDiscover CAD data. Integrate CAD. (Adobe Illustrator)Basemap comparisonSame data, different bins
4Buildings and parcels, elevation, 3D.Start static map Including call outs, cultivating a theme, using templates, legibility, cleanliness. Campus MapsYour “trickster” map, and your fix
5Reference Maps: Scale, Fills, Transparency, Inset Maps and SitesWork on static mapEnvironmental Planning Maps: Sitesnone
6Visualizing a region; Remotely sensed images. Work on static mapRegional Maps (App. Reg Council; Miss. Delta Econ.; Shenzhen SEZ)none
7 NonePRESENTATIONSnoneStatic Map Due
8 Point Collection & Contour linesAvoiding point clutter, aggregating points, creating a hot spot, contours. MAP ROAST!none
9 Boundary issues: Line thickness. Transportation routesCreate a subway map, bus map, or bike lane map.Transportation Plans & Subway MapsPoint collection
10 Flows and connectionsKepler GL: flights, or trade data none
11Tables, Charts & Interactivity PrinciplesInteractive map: Basic data representation in TableauCOVID-19 DashboardsFlow map or Transportation map
12Charts  & Interactivity PrinciplesInteractive map: Advanced data representation in TableauVISUALIZATION REDESIGN!Optional: Data redesign
13noneWork on interactive map: get feedback on draftnonenone
14nonePRESENTATIONSnoneInteractive Map Due