03 Thematic Map

Definition of Thematic Map 

A thematic map focuses on a specific place and tells stories by little relative geography information or social issues/phenomenon around that place.

Statcan.gc.ca. (2015). Thematic map. [online] Available at: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/92-195-x/2011001/other-autre/theme/def-eng.htm [Accessed 10 Feb. 2018].

E-education.psu.edu. (n.d.). 3.2 Thematic Maps | GEOG 160: Mapping our Changing World. [online] Available at: https://www.e-education.psu.edu/geog160/c3_p14.html [Accessed 10 Feb. 2018].



Types of Thematic Map

01. Choropleth map

Choropleth map is based on a certain coloured or patterned area. Like the following one.


2012 election maps created by Robert J. Vanderbei (Princeton) and Mark Newman n,

By using of red and blue to represent Republicans and Democrats respectively is a common sense for audiences to tell the information, but can not tell whether a particular county went strongly for one part or the other or whether it was relatively evenly split.

In this case, the second map (see below) with blue and red as well as shades of purple that shows the percentages of votes. Apparently, pure red occupied most of the states and the shades of purple indicated that a few voters in the red area were influenced by the blue one.


2012 election maps created by Robert J. Vanderbei (Princeton) and Mark Newman n,

But there will be a misunderstanding if the red and blue had divided the states equally how readers could tell is that voters in purple area Republicans’ share exceeded Democrats’ share or Democrats’ share surpassed Republicans’ share.


02. Proportional symbol maps

屏幕快照 2018-02-10 18.58.12.png

Bike Share Map by Ollie O’Brien, 2013,

This Map shows the locations of  bike station in London which is represented by a circle. Its size and colour depending on the size and number of bicycles currently in it. When readers click a circle, they can not only tell real-time bike use visually, but also find the ebb and flow of cycle commuters. Even the use of colour in this map makes sense. Red always symbolises tensive situation, and blue is unoccupied.


03. Dot density maps


Race and ethnicity: Washington, DC, Eric Fischer, 2010

The colour dots high-effectively display the striking differences in Washington, DC. Eric Fischer wrote in his blog: Red is White, Blue is Black, Green is Asian, Orange is Hispanic, Gray is Other, and each dot is 25 people. And now I can tell different races and ethnicities actually live in a typical area. Even more, it’s not easy for most blacks and whites to see each other live as neighborhoods since they occupied east and north-west DC respectively. It’s interesting that people now believe there is no more serious segregation in America but the map shows there are still barriers between communities.

04. Others Interesting Projects

Lego New York by J.R. Schmidt, 2012

PrettyMaps by Stamen Design, 2010


Ribecca, S. (n.d.). Choropleth Map – Learn about this chart and tools to create it. [online] Datavizcatalogue.com. Available at: https://datavizcatalogue.com/methods/choropleth.html [Accessed 10 Feb. 2018].

Newman, M. (2012). Election maps. [online] Www-personal.umich.edu. Available at: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/2012/ [Accessed 10 Feb. 2018].

O’Brien, O. (2013). Bike Share Map | Suprageography. [online] Oobrien.com. Available at: http://oobrien.com/bikesharemap/ [Accessed 10 Feb. 2018].

Axismaps.github.io. (n.d.). Proportional Symbols. [online] Available at: http://axismaps.github.io/thematic-cartography/articles/proportional_symbols.html [Accessed 10 Feb. 2018].

Axismaps.com. (n.d.). Dot Density Maps. [online] Available at: http://www.axismaps.com/guide/univariate/dot-density/ [Accessed 10 Feb. 2018].

Isaac, S. (2017). 5 Popular Thematic Map Types and Techniques for Spatial Data. [online] Carto.com. Available at: https://carto.com/blog/popular-thematic-map-types-techniques-spatial-data/ [Accessed 10 Feb. 2018].

Mapdesign.icaci.org. (n.d.). Commission on Map Design | Website of the newly established ICA Commission on Map Design. [online] Available at: https://mapdesign.icaci.org/ [Accessed 10 Feb. 2018].



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