The Rising Popularity of Map Based Graphics


As the competition to create engaging original content continues to grow, it’s crucial to look at alternative approaches to diversify your output. While effectively constructed, insightful infographics still have the power to draw links, differentiated styles are emerging and favourable results point to a shifting trend towards map-based data visualisation.


Look back as far as 2012 and you can see the idea taking shape in the form of this Food Map of the US which doesn’t offer a great deal of information but is stylish enough to warrant links.


One of the first high-profile iterations of this design choice was posted by Deadspin in 2013 with a look at The Highest Paid Employees in the US that highlighted the disparity between sports coaches and other lucrative professions. The rudimentary appearance nevertheless offered a first glimpse at the viral potential of this method of presentation

Source: Deadspin

From here the concept was picked up on and honed as you can see in this example from GlobalPost that did the rounds in 2014 looking at each country’s highest valued exports.

Source: Business Insider

Also, looking at the Business Insider article it’s featured in (see source above), shows how these types of graphics can be broken up to fit various content pieces.


You can see early attempts at this approach dating back to 2015 on Visual Capitalist – the ‘Biggest Public Company in Every US State’ is still a very simplistic example but one that points towards what has become a noticeable pattern in online content.

Source: Visual Capitalist

Since the start of 2017 there has been a surge in the popularity and quality of this type of design. One of the main benefits of the map-style graphics is that they provide an easy to follow snapshot of the information presented, which can be as generic or specific as the concept calls for.

For instance, take this examination of the wealthiest person in each American state. Creating content with ‘in-country’ appeal, or work that resonates with specific demographics, is a great way of ensuring relevant links.

Source: HowMuch

More generally, there are examples of map-style graphics which traverse the entire globe. The ‘World’s Most Valuable Brands’ infographic that examines the top performing brands per country in 2017.

Source: HowMuch

It’s more of a high-level concept that is elevated by an easy to follow design and offers results that are applicable on a global scale.

Another example of a broader focus is this recent ‘Social World’ infographic from Raconteur.

Source: Raconteur

It’s a fascinating look at the amount of social media users there are in comparison to the world’s population and its presentation makes the scale of their research relatable, combining hard data with a simple map layout.

Locality isn’t the only factor – the focus of the piece itself may be incredibly niche – but the map layout provides a grounding to information that would in other forms be hard to visualise.

Whether it’s the recent solar eclipse that captured the imagination of the US, which country has access to the most nuclear weapons or even the Roman Empire’s roads laid out as a transit map, this technique turns the data into a shareable, useful content piece.

Sources: Visual Capitalist & Sasha Trubetskoy


This approach isn’t all just simple 2D, check out the following examples from data visualisation expert Max Galka, which make use of a 3D rollover…

View Interactive Version: Metrocosm

…and an interactive animation.

View Interactive Version: Metrocosm

Whilst it isn’t necessary to add all these extra features to display your data in a map format – the above visualisations show the vast possibilities offered by this one geographically focused method . . .

It’ll be interesting to see what else people can come up with using these map-based visualisations. Keep checking back to Evolved Digital’s blog for more insights into the shifting trends in today’s fluid content landscape.


Written by John Patterson

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