Evaluating Cartogram Effectiveness

Sabrina Nusrat, Md Jawaherul Alam, Stephen Kobourov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Cartograms are maps in which areas of geographic regions, such as countries and states, appear in proportion to some variable of interest, such as population or income. Cartograms are popular visualizations for geo-referenced data that have been used for over a century to illustrate patterns and trends in the world around us. Despite the popularity of cartograms, and the large number of cartogram types, there are few studies evaluating the effectiveness of cartograms in conveying information. Based on a recent task taxonomy for cartograms, we evaluate four major types of cartograms: contiguous, non-contiguous, rectangular, and Dorling cartograms. We first evaluate the effectiveness of these cartogram types by quantitative performance analysis (time and error). Second, we collect qualitative data with an attitude study and by analyzing subjective preferences. Third, we compare the quantitative and qualitative results with the results of a metrics-based cartogram evaluation. Fourth, we analyze the results of our study in the context of cartography, geography, visual perception, and demography. Finally, we consider implications for design and possible improvements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7792176
Pages (from-to)1105-1118
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Cartograms
  • geo-visualization
  • subjective evaluation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Signal Processing
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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