A few months back, I woke in the middle of the night with an epiphany: My protagonist is a cartographer! I have always loved staring at maps: imagining the poor dears who live in Boring, OR. The taut-tushed inhabitants of Superior Bottom, WV. The inquisitive folks of Why, AZ.
And I love maps because cartographers are visual storytellers. From a map I can instantly identify the story of, for example, commercial airline hubs around the world, the logistical hurdles of walking from my house to yours, the location of Seattle’s 1,692 coffee shops, the projected trends in glaciers, world religions and peanut allergies.
Below is a story that appears to tell why, based on the number of red counties, Kerry and Edwards should have waved their blue flag long before the first Tuesday in November 2004.
But Mark Newman‘s map below shows each county in a size proportional to its population. From this, we see a different story: the election was far closer than the first map suggests, so close that if Kerry and Edwards had won Ohio, they would have won the White House. Oh, OH10!
In this map there’s no reason for Newman to include mountain ranges or bodies of water, highways or state capitals. That level of detail would only muddy the story of the 2004 election and conceal the map’s true purpose. That said, if a map doesn’t contain enough detail, the user can lose her bearings. Plus a too-empty map tells a boring story. Much like this map of Boring, Oregon. [Read more…]