This graphic successfully conveys context with an explicative, well-placed title, supported by a well-placed legend. Compare this with the map below, which, though it demonstrates striking comparisons, lacks a title and legend and therefore immediate context. Though the Emerging Megaregions map displays information in an interesting way (the use of circle diameter to indicate the most dense areas) and suggests an interesting narrative, I do not think it communicates differences between regions effectively. The circles are confusing. In order to determine how many people live in an area, I would have to add circles and account for overlaps. Though the legend is clear, the circles do not help me draw accurate comparisons between the regions in the way that numbers would. The colors are meaningless. The graphic could have created hierarchy by using a color scheme that ranks the regions in order of most emerging to least.
Jordan, I agree that this map doesn’t offer much if you’re interested in making scalar comparisons across regions. But I think its intentions are mostly to identify the ‘megaregions’ and to evidence that numerical assessment has gone into that identification. This said, I think your suggestion about an alternate color palette of gradation from largest to smallest population region is an interesting one, and worth having tried out here.
Although I think the colors used in this map are visually appealing and do not create any confusion, I agree with Jordan in how they lack meaning. From afar, it looks as though the Mid-Atlantic Northeast megaregion somehow has less people than the Piedmont-Atlantic region. A color ramp showing hierarchy would definitely be helpful here, or some other graphic technique that shows hierarchy, such as something representing sphere of influence. It is also a bit misleading how some regions are combined. There are not many folks living between Albuquerque and Colorado Springs, so why didn’t they just combine the Arizona Sun Corridor with Albuquerque- or the Las Vegas area, for that matter?
To your latter point, Adam: maybe it would have been helpful here to include a little text about how regions were defined and differentiated. I would appreciate that, too.
I find this graphic to be reasonably successful, personally. It allows for isolation and identification of the ‘megaregions’ and (only somewhat transparently) establishes its methodology for identifying them. I am able to compare population of individual cities visually–though I am a little frustrated not to have some key cities–perhaps the largest one or two in each region–labeled.
I appreciate that both Jordan and Adam were interested in seeing more visual comparison across megaregions in relation to their population density. I think the suggestion of color providing this distinction is a good one. As you both note, the color coding doesn’t seem meaningful, but it is being used, so it would strengthen the graphic to harness that element that is already in play for the purpose of communicating more useful information.
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