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Ron Rensink, Departments of Psychology and Computer Science



Time:              Tuesdays and Thursdays; hours TBA

Location:       Kenny (Psychology) 2101




This course discusses (i) how knowledge of vision science can be applied to visual design in several areas, and (ii) how knowledge of visual design can form the basis of investigations in several areas of vision science.  Its goal is to show how the disciplines of psychology and computer science can usefully interact via general constraints and guidelines based upon the nature of human perceptual mechanisms.

Areas of visual science include low- and mid-level processes--e.g., colour perception, motion perception, object recognition, and visually-guided action.   Areas of visual design include maps & diagrams, cartoons, information visualization, computer animation, visual interfaces, and graphic design.



This course is intended for graduate or advanced undergrad students in Psychology, Computer Science, and related disciplines. Prior background is required in either perceptual psychology or visual design/graphics, but not both.

The focus of the course is on general design principles--programming is not required. Psychology students must be willing to become familiar with the basics of menu-driven interfaces and other visual displays. Computer science students must be willing to become familiar with the basics of the study of human vision.


Students from outside the Department of Psychology who wish to register for this course please contact Jackie Shaw (



Class Format

Hybrid lecture/seminar, with one of two related 1.5-hr components each day of the week (one on vision science, one on display design). Presentations and discussions are based on readings that students are expected to read beforehand.

On Tuesdays, emphasis will be given to perceptual mechanisms.  Classes start with a 20-30 minute presentation of the assigned topic, usually by a member of the class, followed by group analysis of an essay written by a student on that topic.  The remainder of the class is an open discussion of questions raised by the essays and the readings.  On Thursdays, this sequence will be repeated, but with an emphasis on application. Questions and discussions are encouraged at all times.





Information Visualization (3rd edition), Colin Ware

The Non-Designer's Design Book (4th edition), Robin Williams


Vision Science, Stephen E. Palmer

The Psychology of Graphic Images, Manfredo Massironi

Visualization Analysis and Design, Tamara Munzner

Visual Thinking: for Design, Colin Ware

Other sources will also be used on a limited basis.