Rapid Visualization

A Special Topic offering in Computer Science for Spring 2006

Principal Instructor: Zamchick, Gary
; WEB: www.zamchick.com
- Email: zamchick@cs.nyu.edu

Co-Instructor: Brian Amento, AT&T Labs-Research
- Email: amento@cs.nyu.edu

TA: undetermined

Class Mailing List (You must subscribe):

Office Hours: Immediately after class in Rm. 401 WWH

Lesson Plan and Assignments

"Rapid Visualization" Course Description

The principal challenge facing technology companies today is to offer new, relevant products that keep up with the explosive growth in bandwidth and storage on networks and computers. To remain competitive in a do-or-die climate, innovative product houses - from IDEO to Cooper Interactive to Frog to HP - have embraced new, cost effective rapid prototyping methods. To get the best results from costly development cycles, these companies develop rich scenarios around the end-user, and use creative methods early in the process to envision and iterate a range of product outcomes. Rapid Visualization, with tools drawn from various creative disciplines, dramatically increases the volume and quality of ideas that enter the new product pipeline, and accelerates their time to market.

This course introduces these methods with case studies pulled from, among other sources, the instructor's hands-on experience directing a rapid visualization team at AT&T Labs-Research. Armed with a new set of techniques - concept sketches, storyboards, service and use-case scenarios, and even faux ads - students will gain a practical understanding of the value of rapid visualization to new product development. Students will apply these methods to the development of a novel, visual software tool.

Prerequisite: WWW Programming or equivalent Java experience.

Is a picture worth a thousand lines of code?

These simple representations helped envision robust solutions on top of core research at AT&T Labs.

Companies large and small are turning to rapid visualization methods - to define problems, create scenarios around endusers, and accelerate the time to market of new products - sometimes in advance of writing a single line of code. The reason is simple. It's far more economical to iterate at the pre-prototyping level than after software development is underway. This in no way diminishes the importance of rapid prototyping ("A prototype is worth a thousand pictures" - Rudd, J. and Isensee, S) but is a versatile, flexible companion to scope the opportunities, assumptions, interfaces and user scenarios that will give prototypes their relevance.

Why should a CS grad student learn about rapid visualization methods?

1. It's the way of the future:
Innovative design houses are strong advocates of RV methods in the design of high tech products and services.

2. It pays:
Whether to tap the potential in a large patent archive or to envision new applications.

3. The market for people with RV skills is enormous:
From filmmakers to game designers; scientists to automobile designers; Fashion to designers of military AI applications...

4. It makes you a lightening rod for innovation:
A single concept sketch can galvanize the efforts of an entire team or company.

5. Help your company be first out of the gate:
An RV capability can enable a company to beat others to new frontiers.

6. Art and engineering have converged.
People with a foot in both worlds have a great advantage.

7. It's a fun job. Someone has to do it:
There is a joy that comes from working at the intersection of new domains.

9. Everyone can do it:
You may just have to get out of your own way.


Class Exercises – 25% (presence required)
Assignments – 25%
Tool Development – 50%
- Project Visualization - 25%
- Tool Development - 25%
(includes Mini-Market)

Materials: (to be brought to class)

11” X 14” Bristol pad
Black “Fine” Pentel pens
#2 Pencils
2 Kneaded erasers


Java (1.4) – Java 2D and Swing (Free!)

Required Book


Optional Books
Copies available at Bookstore (except for Koestler)

McCloud, Reinventing Comics
Schrage, Serious Play
Koestler, The Act of Creation
Kelley, The Art of Innovation