Presented By O’Reilly and Cloudera
Make Data Work
September 11, 2018: Training & Tutorials
September 12–13, 2018: Keynotes & Sessions
New York, NY

The Vega project: Building an ecosystem of tools for interactive visualization

Jeffrey Heer (Trifacta | University of Washington)
11:20am–12:00pm Thursday, 09/13/2018
Average rating: ****.
(4.75, 4 ratings)

Who is this presentation for?

  • Data scientists and analysts, data tool developers, and visualization designers

Prerequisite knowledge

  • Basic familiarity with programming and data analysis

What you'll learn

  • Explore Vega and Vega-Lite—emerging visualization tools useful for both analysis practice and the development of interactive data systems


Interactive visualization is a popular medium for data analysis and communication that allows people to engage with data. Yet existing models of visualization often relegate interaction to a second-class citizen—for example, requiring event handling callbacks that are difficult to specify and even harder to reason about.

Jeffrey Heer offers an overview of Vega and Vega-Lite, high-level declarative languages for interactive visualization, and shares examples of Vega-powered applications ranging from new visualization design tools to chart recommender engines. The goal of the Vega project is to advance both visualization theory and tooling through higher-level languages that simplify the creation of interactive visualizations and support new applications for improved data analysis, which led to the development of not a single system but rather a stack of tools for interactive visualization.

Vega is an expressive representation that is well suited for custom, explanatory visualizations. It shifts the burden of execution from the user to an underlying dataflow system. Vega-Lite builds on Vega to provide a higher-level grammar for rapidly specifying interactive graphics for exploratory analysis. For example, brushing and linking among scatterplots and interactive cross-filtering require only a few lines of code in Vega-Lite, versus hundreds in D3. Moreover, Vega and Vega-Lite provide convenient yet powerful formats for adding visualization capabilities to other programming languages and for writing programs that reason about the visualization design space. Vega-based tools are being used by the Jupyter and Observable data science communities, on Wikipedia, and within companies such as Apple, Elastic, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Trifacta, Twitter, and Uber.

Photo of Jeffrey Heer

Jeffrey Heer

Trifacta | University of Washington

Jeffrey Heer is Trifacta’s chief experience officer and cofounder as well as a professor of computer science at the University of Washington, where he directs the Interactive Data Lab. Jeff’s passion is the design of novel user interfaces for exploring, managing, and communicating data. The data visualization tools developed by his lab (D3.js, Protovis, Prefuse) are used by thousands of data enthusiasts around the world. In 2009, Jeff was named to MIT Technology Review’s list of “top innovators under 35.”