Effectiveness of cartogram for the representation of spatial data

Hui Sun, Zhilin Li

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Cartogram is a technique for visualisation of the geographical distribution of spatial data. It has two main types, i.e. distance cartogram and area cartogram. Area cartogram is a transformed map in which areas are resized in proportion to an attribute value. A number of techniques have been developed for the generation of area cartograms. Some researchers consider cartogram as a very effective technique for visualisation of spatial data, while others doubt about the effectiveness because of the possible distortion in shape and/or disconnectivity in topology. This study aims to evaluate the effectiveness of area cartogram for visualizing spatial data. In this study, two comparative experiments have been conducted. One is the comparison between thematic maps and cartograms, and the other is the comparison among different types of area cartogram. Two sets of data with different characteristics are used, i.e. 2005 China population data and 1996 US election data. Results show that cartogram is more effective in the representation of the 1996 US election data which provides a qualitative result (i.e. in binary form or nominal data), but thematic map is far more effective in the representation of 2005 China population data which provides a quantitative result (in classes or ordinal data). It is also found that among different types of area cartogram, pseudo-cartogram is the most preferred technique and Dorling cartogram is the least preferred one.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-21
Number of pages10
JournalCartographic Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2010


  • area cartogram
  • effectiveness
  • spatial representation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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