Ghost Critique

This week I saw one amazingly bad map that was being heralded as a good map in the media. It prompted the following subtweet:

I’m not going to link to the bad map that I’m talking about even though I know it would be instructive to do so because this post does not constitute a positive review of the map. However, I do think I can use it as a platform for discussing the general errors that were made. Here were the two big ones:

  • Too many things on the map. There were circles of varying size and color, isolines describing another variable, polygons with regular shading and polygons with crosshatch fills, labels, lines of varying pattern and icons.
  • It was a static map that you could zoom in and out of but one of the zoom buttons changed its icon suddenly after a couple of zooms.

When you have to put that many things on one map you also have to spend a few weeks at a minimum getting their symbology, layer order, and palette correct. I’m guessing that’s where this map went wrong.

The map’s central premise, data gathering effort, and analytical effort were all solid, which I am sure are the details that merited the media attention, but it failed in the final graphical display. The map makers should have spent more time on the cartography, much much more time. A hundred hours more time! There is no doubt in my mind that the map’s audience is significantly stifled as a result.


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