Monday, February 21, 2011

WTF is This? Bad Maps!

Here are some maps I dug up recently on the Internet that have earned the WTF IS THIS? Disapproval Rating from the Map Monster (the evil twin of the Map Monkey, or otherwise known as the voice of my conscience!). 

US Population Map by State
First of all, the projection is bad.  And the map-maker has committed the cardinal sin of producing a choropleth-looking map using absolute numbers, instead of ratios or percentages.  And the multi-color ramp is not intuitive, as it would be in a monochrome ramp – here the colors do not suggest an increase or decrease in magnitude.  Aqua is not inherently showing “more” of the variable than purple.  It would be nice to have some commas in the legend to help us read the numbers, too.  Seven or eight digits without commas or spaces just boggles the eyes.  There are no data sources, no scale, and a doofy-looking after thought of a north arrow floating in the white space.  Oh, my, says the Map Monster.  WTF? 

Walmarts and Starbucks per Capita by US State
This map has no legend.  We have no idea what the data ranges are.  Are they even the same data ranges for both maps?  It’s somehow hard to believe that California, Illinois, Florida, Virginia, and Colorado all have far more Starbucks per capita than Walmarts.  I’ll just bet the differences in data ranges might have something to do with this apparent anomaly!

Bad Proportional Symbol Map
You can’t even tell which circle goes with which city!  They need a refresher course in labeling!  Some of the symbols cover the entire state!  And there are mysterious numbers in the legend – 0.1, 0.66, 1.8, etc.  What could this mean in terms of population?

Bad Coast Guard Map
Horribly confusing and overly complicated.  TMI!!!

Bad NOAA Map (Gulf oil spill)
The same problem as with the Coast Guard map.  NOAA usually produces good, clear maps.  Not this one.  (We still love you, NOAA!)
“Fun task: Try telling where the oil is predicted to be on May 3rd on this map. Especially if you are red-green colorblind.  This shows why stacked, partly transparent polygons are a poor choice to show a multi-day event.  Bad stuff.” From Misguided Maps at  

US Population Growth Map
This one is so bad.  We don’t know why the 0% growth states were chosen to be shown in bright red (when all the other states are shades of blue), and the data value classes overlap.  In addition, the legend ranges are given in percentages, while the map text states that the numbers reflect population growth, in thousands.  (I don’t think New York State’s population grew by 10,000 %, for instance!).
Courtesy of Cartastrophe at  

Apple Ranking Map
We really have no idea what we are looking at here.  What do the numbers in the so-called “Index” refer to?  Apple sales?  Apple quality?  Tons of apples produced?  What are the geographical divisions, the units of data aggregation?  They are not counties!  Maybe some apple market catchment area?  We can’t know!  And they’re not saying!

OK, I’ll let you guys try to figure out what is wrong with this map!  And the very bad mistakes in labeling call into question the veracity of the rest of the data on this map.  HINT: Things are not necessarily where they should be!

Fox News Makes a Map!  Even Dora the Explorer wouldn't have made THIS mistake! This infamous Fox News map was brought to my attention the other day by Andrew M., Kristen G., and Lesley P.  Another example of labeling gone wrong: when things are not necessarily put in the right place.  It's no wonder that many US kids are geographically illiterate - look how ignorant their elders can be (well at least the elders at Fox News! which hopefully are not TOO many kids' role models!)

The "Too Many Symbols" Map
No legend, first of all.  No title, second of all.  I have no idea whatsoever what this map is supposed to be about.  Especially since many of the symbols appear to be out in the water.  IF the blue bits are water….

Change in Abortion Rate
Kids, don’t try this at home!  The "Exploding States" approach.  Can anybody actually interpret the data in this map?  And why is Alaska sitting directly on top of the Pacific Northwest states?

Art Museum Map
This is just a bad map – the resolution of the coastline is very coarse compared to the zoomed-in character of the map.  And the locational points are labeled with text that is way too large.  And what are those flying saucer-like elliptical blips? (photographed from a TV screen by Ms. Kristen Grady, ever on the look-out for strange maps!)

Sara Palin’s Target Map
Nothing cartographically wrong with this, in particular, really not a bad map, just a map in bad taste. 

American Maps Are Bad
It seems that, as far as map-making goes, Americans have had a bad reputation for quite a long while! 

A diagram explaining the source of “Bad Map” problems, from Judith Tyner’s book Introduction to Thematic Cartography.  Take heed of good advice!  Know your data!  Know your audience!  “A clear map IS a beautiful map,” as the Map Monkey always admonishes. 

If any of you have any additional critiques of the above "Bad Maps," or would like to add links to MORE bad maps, please leave a comment.


  1. Cartography monster is my new hero!

  2. HA, HA! Glad you like him (her?) IT!!!!

  3. The Fox News Channel map is spectacular. It just goes to show that the news media can/does distort information to fit their story.

  4. How would you map America's absolute population by state?

  5. Generally speaking, best cartographic practices would advise proportional symbol maps as an appropriate method to map absolute numbers. This is due to the misleading nature of choropleth maps for anything other than percentages, rates, ratios, etc. You could also use a dot density technique if you just wanted to provide a snapshot of population distribution, or, if you didn't care about aggregating the population counts by state, then you could create a continuous surface of population counts, perhaps using the population counts at the centroids of the counties. My personal choice would be to make a choropleth map of population density (people per square mile, for instance, per state) with the absolute pop counts per state as a text overlay, or show the pop counts per state in a graph integrated within the map layout. For all but the smallest states, there is such intra-state variation in population density that it almost doesn't make sense to aggregate by state, and some finer resolution data (like county) should ideally be used to maximize the spatial information being transmitted by the map.

  6. the population trend map was in fact created by one of my students for a presentation as an example of bad cartography. and apparently an example of how grabbing stuff online and presenting it without context is a "cardinal sin". lol.

  7. To: Anonymous poster at Feb. 21, 2013 at 1:22 PM - Yes, well, sorry, but I don't see how the fact that this Population Trend map was purposely created as a "Bad Map" alters the validity of including it here in a collection of Bad Maps! It was presented in the context of a collection of Bad Maps. How is that a sin, cardinal or ordinal, or otherwise? My kudos to your student for creating a very good example of a bad map. I, too, use bad map examples to illustrate to students the principles of good cartography. But then I ask them to make examples of Good Maps! lol.

  8. registered trademarks, company names, product names and brand names are the property of their respective owners, and disclaims any ownership in such third-party marks. The use of any third party trademarks, logos, or brand names is for informational purposes only, and does not imply an endorsement by or vice versa or that such trademark owner has authorized to promote its products or services. is an independent support and service provider for the mostsecure remote technical services for all Office products. Our independent support services offer an instant support for all software related errors in the devices, laptops, desktops and peripherals. We have no link or affiliation with any of the brand or third-party company as we independently offer support service for all the product errors you face while using the Office. If your product is under warranty, then you may also avail our support services for free from manufacturer’s official website

    If your product is under warranty, then you may also avail our support services for free from manufacturer’s official website


  9. I’m extremely affected regarding the information you offer in your articles. i need to say am extremely overpowered by your whole story. It’s tasking to induce such quality data on-line these days. I expect to staying here for an extended time.

  10. I really happy found this website eventually. Really informative and inoperative, Thanks for the post and effort! Please keep sharing more such blog.

    kaspersky activation code

    pogo not loading

    roadrunner email

    aol mail password recovery

  11. I am very thankfull to you for sharing this fantastic article , I appereciate your work . ,

  12. It read your article every thing is clear , Thanks for sharing. , ,

  13. Thanks for provide great informatic and looking beautiful blog, really nice required information & the things i never imagined and i would request, wright more blog and blog post like that for us. Thanks you once agian

    court marriage in delhi ncr
    court marriage in delhi
    court marriage in noida
    court marriage in ghaziabad
    court marriage in gurgaon
    court marriage in faridabad
    court marriage in greater noida
    name change online
    court marriage in chandigarh
    court marriage in bangalore

  14. Thank you for sharing Awesome blog post its amazing will come back to read more. | | hulu com activate .

  15. Norton is an antivirus that helps in avoiding online threats such as harmful malware, unsafe downloads, unsafe sites. In today’s world, millions of users surf the internet every day, and there are many advantages and disadvantages of it, as well to avoid these disadvantages should be secured by the software.

  16. Norton Internet Security or Norton Antivirus products are the essential tools for protecting the computer or digital devices from malware, spyware, Trojans and other virus attacks. For Internet threats Norton products are very effective.


  17. Roku Device is the worldwide No.1 streaming device which is very popular in the United States. Roku offers users the best entertainment experience they've wanted. You can turn your device on very easily in handy steps.

  18. Nice post! This is a very nice blog that I will definitively come back to more times this year! Thanks for informative post.

  19. Get Hulu activate at or visit at for making your hulu activation process easy.For More visit Hulu Activation code.

  20. Excellent content idea, thanks for share and see here judi kartu

  21. This is my first visit to your web journal! We are a group of volunteers and new activities in the same specialty. Website gave us helpful data to work.
    eyelash extension supplies

  22. What a cool idea, love this. Thanks for sharing.dd curl lashes

  23. Your post is very interesting and interesting, the content is very practical and noticed. Thank you for sharing.contract killers

  24. Your post is extremely Excelant, each post is heap of informative and Effecktive . thanks for your helpfull post.murders

  25. All the articles are very nice and useful thanks for sharing with us for this information.los angeles artist

  26. To begin setup Office home and student 2019, office account and office product key both are required. Users need to activate the office product key online with Microsoft Account at URL Keep remember the details of your Microsoft account so that you can download, install or reinstall office product later on.

  27. Garmin is a program that handles the complete update of the Mac windows. By connecting the device to a personal computer, it will keep updating you with the latest map and related information. Just connect it when charging and it will update the program for various problems.

  28. Garmin is a program that handles the complete update of the Mac windows. By connecting the device to a personal computer, it will keep updating you with the latest map and related information. Just connect it when charging and it will update the program for various problems.

  29. The Hp printer is the finest printer on the market with high quality home and office facilities for everyday use. You need to unbox them if you purchase a new HP printer, then set it up with a PC or laptop. By visiting url:, the user can download and update applications and printer drivers.

  30. Garmin is a program that handles the complete updating of the Mac windows. It syncs the device and links the device to your PC. Will immediately refresh your PC with the new map. It even lets you know about the latest releases.

  31. If you want to use your Webroot service, you need to redeem the activation code. It is a 20 digit alphanumeric code that you can find in your registered email ID's inbox when you purchase it online. Please check the retail card if you bought it from an offline store. You can also try logging in to your Webroot account at and get the keycode.

  32. It provides safety while surfing online. It’s the most used antivirus in the United States. To install Norton on your Pc then read the full article provided below.

  33. is a direct url for garmin updates and installation for every Garmin product. Device Support is also available just use the chat icon on the website and get instant help about your concern.

  34. Installing Garmin Express is fairly simple. You can determine whether you have the latest software by accessing your device's settings (usually done by tapping on the wrench icon). You can compare your settings to the latest ones listed on Garmin's Website.

  35. offers various useful antivirus programs to protect your devices from any online threats. These valuable and affordable of the Norton are accessible at