The Entire United States Pt 2

Yesterday I wrote about the failure in a Politico piece to include Alaska and Hawaii in a graphic depicting the “entire” United States. After I had posted it, I recalled an article I read in the Guardian that looked at the shape of the United States, using the term “logo map”. It compared what many would consider the logo map to the actual map of the United States.

Still no New Zealand…
Still no New Zealand…

I warn you, it is a long read. But it was worth it to try and reframe the idea of what does the United States look like?

Credit for the piece goes to the Guardian graphics department.

The Entire United States

Last month Politico published an article called the Democrats’ Dilemma. It looked at what will likely be the crux of their debate for their 2020 candidates. Go moderate or hard left? The super simple version of the argument is that do you win by persuading independents and moderate Republicans to vote Democratic? Or do you win by ginning up the fervour of your liberal base and drive out the vote?

The article contrasts those approaches by looking at two neighbouring congressional districts. The first was won by Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American woman who has been at the centre of several causes célèbres in recent months. The second was won by a moderate, wealthy white man who has not really attracted any attention whatsoever.

But I don’t want to talk about the merits of either representative nor the fascinating split the article discusses. Instead, I want to look at a little piece of the graphics used in the article. It uses some simple stacked bar charts to compare and contrast the demographics of the representatives’ districts. Notably, they are different. But it goes on to compare and contrast them to the overall United States.

But what about New Zealand?
But what about New Zealand?

The first thing, I probably would have angled Mr. Phillips’ head so his head is straight, but that is a minor detail. The other thing I immediately noticed is a big pet peeve of mine. For the “Entire United States”, we have a map of the United States. Or do we?

What is missing? The entire states of Alaska and Hawaii, that’s what. I can understand not including Puerto Rico or other insular territories like the U.S. Virgin Islands because they are either not states or so small they would not appear visible at such a scale. However, Alaska and Hawaii are both integral parts of the United States. They are not marginal, like former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ infamous quip about Hawaii being “some island in the Pacific”.

Perhaps at the above scale, Hawaii would be too small to appear—though I doubt it. But what about Alaska? It is the largest state. And Texas isn’t even a close second. So why is Alaska not included? Unfortunately—though fortunately for Politico, whose work I generally like—this is not a problem specific to Politico.

Even my own employer, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, gets it wrong. One of their interactive data visualisation pieces, which for the record my team had nothing to do with, also completely omits Alaska and Hawaii in their map of the United States. And it’s a far larger map with ample space.

Still no New Zealand…
Still no New Zealand…

Including Alaska and Hawaii should not be afterthoughts. They are not second-class states. They are full constituent parts of the union. And if it is not easy to include them because they are not contiguous nor sharing the same continent, that should not obviate designers from including them in the United States.

Credit for the piece goes to the Politico’s design department and the Philadelphia Fed’s design department.

A Macedonia by any Other Name

As someone who loves geography and maps, I have plenty of printed atlases and map books. One year, as a gift, my family gave me an early 20th century atlas. That one in particular is remarkable because of how much the world changed between 1921 and 2019—what was French West Africa is now several independent countries.

But our maps may be changing again as Greece has now formally recognised the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as North Macedonia, what most of the world simply calls Macedonia. But Greeks do not want you to confuse that Macedonia with the Macedonia (or Macedon) of Ancient Greece and Alexander the Great. The squabble over the name has prevented what will be North Macedonia from joining the European Union and NATO because of Greek objections.

As the Economist recently showed, however, it might take a little while before the name Macedonia catches on with the public at large. (Note, I intended to type North Macedonia but instead went with Macedonia. I opted to leave it incorrect just to show how difficult it will be.)

What's in a name?
What’s in a name?

The plot uses my favourite small multiples to look at six countries whose names have changed. Some of you may be unfamiliar with the originals. Bechuanaland may be the most obscure, but Burma and Ceylon may be far more familiar. Of course the historian in me then wonders why the mentions of countries spiked in books. But small multiples are usually not the place to do detailed annotations to humour an audience of one.

In terms of its design, we have an effective use of colour and line. I may have dropped the thin red line for the max 100 value as it makes the piece a bit busy overall, but that might just be house style.

Of course for this graphic in particular, we will have to wait several years before we can add Macedonia/North Macedonia to the plot.

Credit for the piece goes to the Economist Data Team.

Where is the North Pole?

We have two North Poles. The most commonly known is the geographic north pole that sits at the top of the world. We also have the magnetic north pole, which is where your compass points when you are lost in the woods. But, the magnetic north pole is not static and in fact moves. (In Earth’s past, the north and the south pole have actually flipped so north is south and south is north.)

In this piece from the New York Times, we have a nice map from Jonathan Corum that shows the movement of the magnetic north pole over time. The map is a nice orthographic projection centred on the geographic north pole.

No matter where you go, there you are.
No matter where you go, there you are.

Of course the centre of the displayed map is not the north pole, as the designer cropped it to show the movement from Canada towards Siberia. What I really like is that the line is actually a series of dots. Of course we do not know if each dot is an actual measurement or an interpolation of the determined magnetic north pole, and that should be made clearer. But, I like to think that each dot is a point in the movement of the pole.

Credit for the piece goes to Jonathan Corum.

The Intersection of Geography and Politics

We made it to the end of the week, everybody. And to help celebrate, xkcd posted a little comic that contains two of my favourite subjects: geography and politics. In particular, the piece looks at the 2020 election and plate tectonics.

Break it all apart
Break it all apart

One doesn’t often hear of the Midcontinent Rift System.

Credit for the piece goes to Randall Munroe.

The Changing Shape of Anak Krakatau

A few weeks ago we took a look at an interactive piece from the BBC that used a slider to show before and after photos of Anak Krakatau. For those that forget, that was the volcano that exploded and created a tsunami in Indonesia, which killed over 400 people. Well, geography is always changing and so has the shape of the volcano.

The BBC published a piece about two weeks ago that looked at new details from a Finnish radar satellite. These show how the crater of the volcano has been cut off from the ocean and is now a little lake.

Maybe not the most ideal lounging lagoon
Maybe not the most ideal lounging lagoon

This piece is not really revolutionary in its design. But it does provide a nice follow-up on a story that piqued my interest.

Credit for the piece goes to ICEYE.

Chinese Urban Clusters

Yesterday the Economist posted a graphic about Chinese urban clusters, of which the Chinese government is planning to create 19 as part of a development strategy. In terms of design, though, I saw it and said, “I remember doing something like that several years ago”.

The Economist piece looks at just the geography of the Chinese clusters. It highlights three in particular it discusses within the article while providing population numbers for those clusters. Spoiler: they are large.

The Economist graphic does little else beyond labelling the cities and the highlighting of the three features clusters. But that is perfectly okay, because that was probably all the graphic was required to do. I am actually impressed that they were able to label every city on the map. As you will see, we quickly abandoned that design idea.

The Chinese government's new urban cluster plan
The Chinese government’s new urban cluster plan

So back in 2015, using 2014 data, my team worked on a series of graphics for a Euromonitor International white paper on Chinese cities. The clusters that the analysts identified, however, were just that, ones identified by researchers. Since the Chinese government had not yet created this new plan.

We added some context to our cluster map
We added some context to our cluster map

We also looked at more cities and added some vital context to the cluster map by working to identify the prospects of the various Chinese provinces. Don’t ask me what went into that metric, though, since I forget. The challenge, however, was identifying the four different tiers of Chinese city and then differentiating between the three different cluster types while overlaying that on a choropleth. Then we added a series of small multiples to show how now all provinces are alike despite having similar numbers of cities.

Credit for the Economist piece goes to the Economist Data Team.

Credit for the Euromonitor piece is mine. I would gladly give a shoutout to those that worked with me on that project…but it’s been so long I forget. But I’m almost certain both Lindsey Tom and Ciana Frenze helped out, if not on that graphic, on other parts of the project.

Kilauea Eruption

As a kid, volcanoes fascinated me. The idea that the molten core of the Earth can bubble its way up to and then erupt from the cold crusty surface of the planet still fascinates me. Of course, volcanoes can also have drastic impacts on people, both at the grand scale of impacting global climate to the smaller and more personal scale of someone’s home destroyed by a lava flow.

And unfortunately for residents of Hawai’i that personal destruction is unfolding across a development called Leilani Estates. The Washington Post has a nice piece detailing the geography of the area and showing how quickly things can change.

Earth is powerful
Earth is powerful

The article uses the photo above to illustrate the distance the lava flow travelled in only a few days. It also shows how precariously sited the homes are.

Only because I am so fascinated by these kinds of stories, I hope the Post continues to expand its content with pieces like this exploring the eruption and those of other volcanoes in the area.

Credit for the piece goes to Laris Karklis and Lauren Tierney.

What Does Your Name Mean? (Country-level Edition)

Shoutout to my very good friend Jonathan Fairman for passing this one along.

Browsing the internets, I often find these little adverts saying something about “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Name” or “10 Things Your Name Says About You”. They grab my attention because, as you all know, genealogy is kind of a thing that I do and I am curious where lots of names in my family come from.

But where do countries names originate? We all probably know America comes from Amerigo Vespucci. But how about Mexico? Thankfully Quartz put together a piece exploring country name origins. And it turns out that most can be grouped into four different types. Being named after a man, like America, well you guessed it, that’s one of the four.

Tribal names are another…
Tribal names are another…

Credit for the piece goes to Thu-Huong Ha.