6 Different Ways to Visualise Data Geographically

So you have some data that you want to show over across a geographical region. What are some of the options available to you? Here’s a list of different thematic maps types that you can use.

Bubble Maps

In this map, circles are displayed over their designated location with the area of the circle being proportional to its value in the dataset. Bubble Maps are good for comparing proportions over geographic regions without the issues caused by region area shape (for example, bigger countries are given more emphasis even if their values aren’t more). However, the major flaw with this data map is that really large circles can overlap other circles and regions, so this needs to be accounted for.

Choropleth Maps

A commonly used form of thematic map that uses colour to display values over geographic regions. Colour scales, such as light to dark or red to blue are used to represent value of a variable. So for example, the darker the region, the higher the value it represents. Choropleth Maps can also show the distribution of categorised data over region. So for example, each colour could represent a political party that has the most votes within that region. The major flaw to Choropleth Maps are that larger areas are even more emphasis even if their designated values aren’t proportional. Also, values often need to be normalised, so for example, population needs to be divided by per square mile/km, in order for the data to be accurately represented.

Point Maps

Also known as a Dot Distribution Maps, is a way of detecting spatial patterns or the distribution of data over a geographical region, by placing points in geographical space.

Connection Maps

You could think of this as Point Map whose dots are connected by a line. Connection Maps can be used to show the relationships between geographical regions or even spatial patterns.

Flow Maps

Used to show the migration of objects or values between locations. You could think of Flow Maps as a Connection Map with magnitudes assigned to them by the thickness of their lines and arrows to show their direction.

Chart Combination Maps

Charts such as Pie Charts or Bar Graphs can be assigned to geographical region to represent the data there.