How simple is too simple, when it comes to analyzing data on a map?
The KISS principle can be applied to many things, including graphs and maps. What is the KISS principle, you might ask? Well, it's not the rock band that my friend Patricia (pictured below) has been known to dress like. Instead, it is the principle of "Keep it Simple" (or one of the several variations of the wording). I think KISS is a good goal in general, but should it be applied to the actual geometry of a map? Let's experiment and find out...
I recently saw a map on dadaviz that represents each state in the US as equal-sized colored square. I thought it was an interesting approach (as it helps eliminate area size bias), and therefore I wanted to see if I could create a similar map with SAS. But as I was creating this simplified map, I noticed that many of the states were not in their proper position relative to other states (for example, Virginia was to the west of North Carolina instead of to the north, and South Dakota was to the east of North Dakota instead of to the south). And the states were also difficult to recognize, without their familiar shapes. Well, anyway, here's my SAS version of their map:
So, although their simplified map design is interesting, perhaps it takes KISS a bit too far? I wondered if it might be better to use a slightly less simplified map, such as the ones promoted by Mark Monmonier in his books How to Lie With Maps and Mapping It Out. So I created a custom US map where the states are shaped like Mark's map, and plotted the same data on it. In this map, the states are in the correct relative position, and the somewhat correct size, and therefore much easier to recognize than the squares in the previous map. But I still find it a bit difficult to recognize some of the states, and I wonder what is the benefit of the simplified shapes?
Finally, I plotted the data on a traditional US map. And personally, I prefer this one over the two simplified versions.
So, what's your opinion - which map do you prefer? What are the pros & cons of each map?