As a cartographer, I love maps—and if you’re reading this, you probably do, too. But not all data can, or should, be visualized spatially. Sometimes, the most effective way to illuminate trends or patterns in your data is to chart it. There are a number of reasons you might want to include charts in your story maps. For one, charts are great at presenting quick, digestible insights. Our brains are hardwired to process visual information faster than written text, and charts can communicate fundamental statistical trends much more efficiently than explanatory narration.
Furthermore, charts can provide novel perspectives on familiar data. By visualizing the same dataset in multiple ways—for example, mapping a dataset to highlight geographic distributions, and charting the same dataset to show temporal distributions—you might expose or reinforce statistical patterns and relationships that would otherwise be overlooked.
Third, because charts are inherently visual, they can bolster the tone and character of your story map. Just as a rug can tie a room together, a good chart can elevate your story to new levels. Of course, this goes both ways: a poorly designed chart can scupper an otherwise excellent story map—but the same can be said about any visual element.
This blog post covers some general best practices for using static and interactive charts in story maps, as well as some advanced options for getting the most out of your non-geographic visualizations. Let’s dive right in!