Final project

Due by 11:59 PM on Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Thumbs up computer kid

You made it to the end of our whirlwind tour of data visualization principles! Congratulations!

Now you get to show off all the tools you learned with (1) your final rubric and (2) a beautiful, truthful, narrative visualization.


You’ve received feedback from me and your peers and you’ve tested out your rubric on two existing graphics. Polish up your data visualization rubric and e-mail me the final version. Half of your final project grade will be based on this, so make sure the rubric yields actual numbers.I sadly have no idea what “strong” + “acceptable” + “weak” is in real numbers.

You’ll also want to make sure it has good external validity and works well when other people use it.

Final rubric rubric

I will grade your rubric with this rubric.


For your final project, you will take a dataset, explore it, tinker with it, and tell a nuanced story about it using at least three graphs.

I want this project to be as useful for you and your future career as possible—you’ll hopefully want to show off your final project in a portfolio or during job interviews.

Accordingly, you have some choice in what data you can use for this project. I’ve found several different high-quality datasets online related to the core MPA tracks (and some business stuff too, for the MBAs in the class).

You do not have to choose a dataset in your given emphasis. Choose whatever one you are most interested in or will have the most fun with.

Nonprofit management

Federal, state, and local government management

Business management


Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Download a dataset and explore it. Many of these datasets are large and will not open (well) in Excel, so you’ll need to load the CSV file into R with read_csv(). Most of these datasets have nice categorical variables that you can use for grouping and summarizing, and many have time components too, so you can look at trends. Your past homework assignments will come in handy here.
  2. Find a story in the data. Explore that story and make sure it’s true and insightful.
  3. Use R to create multiple graphs to tell the story. You can make as many graphs as you want, but you must use at least three different chart types (i.e. don’t just make three scatterplots).
  4. Export these figures as PDF files, place them in Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator (or InDesign), and make one combined graphic or handout where you tell the complete story. You have a lot of latitude in how you do this. You can make a graphic-heavy one-page handout. You can make something along the lines of the Nuclear Slowdown figure, with one big graphic + smaller subgraphics + explanatory text. Just don’t make a goofy infographic. Whatever you do, the final figure must include all the graphics, must have some explanatory text to help summarize the narrative, and must be well designed.
  5. Export the final graphic from Inkscape or Illustrator as a PDF and a PNG.
  6. Write a memo using R Markdown to introduce, frame, and describe your story and figure. Use this template to get started. You should include the following in the memo:
    • Executive summary
    • Background information and summary of the data
    • Explanation, description, and code for each individual figure
    • Explanation and description for the final figure
    • Final figure should be included as an image (remember ![Caption goes here](path/to/file))

Remember to follow R Markdown etiquette rules and style—don’t have it output extraneous messages or warnings, include summary tables in nice tables (remember knitr::kable()), adjust the dimensions for your figures, and remove the placeholder text that’s in the template already (i.e. I don’t wan’t to see stuff like “Describe and show how you cleaned and reshaped the data” in the final report.)

You can download a full example of what a final project might look like (but don’t make your final combined visualization look exactly like this—show some creativity!)

Final deliverables

You must e-mail me the following files before the deadline. Final project rubric

  1. A memo introducing and describing your final graphic (see full instructions above)
  2. A standalone PDF of your graphic exported from Inkscape or Illustrator
  3. A standalone PNG of your graphic exported from Inkscape or Illustrator
  4. A PDF of your final rubric for evaluating visualizations

No late work will be accepted for this project since it’s the last project and it counts as your final.

I will use this rubric to grade the final product.


I am happy to give feedback and help along the way—just not at, like, 10 PM on the night it’s due. Please don’t hesitate to come and get help! My goal is for you to have a beautiful graphic in the end that you’ll want to show off to all your friends, family, neighbors, employers, and strangers on the street—I’m not trying to trip you up or give you trick questions!

And that’s it. You’re done! Go out into the world now and make beautiful, insightul, and truthful graphics.

Go forth and make awesomeness.