Don’t let the maps fool you

Posted to Maps  |  Tags:  |  Nathan Yau

Maps are fun to look at and get easier to make every day, so there’s a lot of them floating around in the world. But before you sit down to enjoy that big, juicy map, take in some advice from geographer Andrew Wiseman to avoid looking the fool. A fool? A fool, I say.

It’s no surprise then that people often assume maps are accurate, because it’s so often unclear how they are made—maps are “arcane images afforded undue respect and credibility” that are “entrusted to a priesthood of technically competent designers and drafters,” as Monmonier puts it. Almost everybody can write, but not everyone can make a map.

Tips include: Don’t trust extreme titles, look for the data source, and note the color distributions. As is usually the case, we can piggyback on most of this advice for visualization in general.

And this of course doesn’t mean you treat every map with extreme skepticism and strip away every possible ounce of joy. Just pay attention as you read, like you would anything, written or otherwise.

Favorites

Unemployment in America, Mapped Over Time

Watch the regional changes across the country from 1990 to 2016.

How We Spend Our Money, a Breakdown

We know spending changes when you have more money. Here’s by how much.

Watching the growth of Walmart – now with 100% more Sam’s Club

The ever so popular Walmart growth map gets an update, and yes, it still looks like a wildfire. Sam’s Club follows soon after, although not nearly as vigorously.

10 Best Data Visualization Projects of 2015

These are my picks for the best of 2015. As usual, they could easily appear in a different order on a different day, and there are projects not on the list that were also excellent.