Operationalizing Trumbo’s Principles of Bivariate Choropleth Map Design
Trumbo’s (1981) ideas on bivariate choropleth design have been underexplored and underutilized. He noted that effective map design (including color selection) is directly informed by the intended goal or use of the map (i.e., what questions might the map answer), and he identified three common spatial relationships that can be displayed by a bivariate choropleth map: inverse relationships, a range of one variable within another, and direct relationships. Each is best suited to answering different map readers’ questions. Trumbo also suggested sample color palettes to focus the map reader’s attention on pertinent data. In consultation with Trumbo, we extended his ideas, first by creating focal models that illustrate his three spatial relationships. We then constructed sample maps to examine each of the focal models, and finally compared each model by mapping the same two data sets (of obesity and inactivity). We investigated the visual differences in each of the resulting maps, and asked spatial questions regarding the relationships between obesity and inactivity. Our work validates Trumbo’s ideas on bivariate choropleth map design, and we hope our focal models guide cartographers towards making color choices by linking their map purpose to the appropriate focal model.
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