Hunting for Elephants

I’m back after two weeks holiday. See, I didn’t forget you. I even brought you presents. Of a sort. From National Geographic come two maps from an article about the poaching of elephants—if I recall correctly.

The first map is the better of the two. It shows the impact of poaching by overlaying the ranges of the elephants in two different years. Not surprisingly, the range has decreased. The map also points out monitored reserves and then aggregates data from those sites into regions, whose illegal death totals are displayed as little filled-in elephant icons. I don’t love the icons, but they are compact, flat, and stack nicely. Almost squarish. So they can work for me.

Elephant Poaching
Elephant Poaching

This second map is less successful. It dedicates a lot of real estate to a large map that is really only used to highlight countries that are quite large. Without any kind of supplemental data as the first map had, e.g. the elephant ranges, I would have likely made the map smaller. The tusk chart below the map…yeah.

Ivory is used to determine number of elephants killed
Ivory is used to determine number of elephants killed

Both taken together, I am left with the impression that the full-page graphics were the work of two different hands. The first map has the level of detail of someone who is conversant in and works regularly on infographics. The second page feels a bit weaker, as if from someone not quite so familiar with infographics and how to make the best of them.

Credit for the pieces go to NGM staff.

Author: Brendan Barry

I am a graphic designer who focuses on information design. My day job? I am the data visualisation manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. (This blog is my something I do on my own time and does not represent the views of the Fed, blah blah blah legal stuff.) And with my main interest in information design—be it in the shape of clear charts, maps, diagrams, or wayfinding systems—I am fortunate that my day job focuses on data visualisation. Outside of work, I try to stay busy with personal design work. Away from the world of design, I enjoy cooking and reading and am interested in various subjects from history and geography to politics to science to the arts. And I allow all of them to influence my work.

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