Maps have continued to evolve over the years. They were once used to only get directions from point A to B. Today, in the modern age of GPS and cell phones, maps display all kinds of data and findings. More so, there’s a growing need for users to have detailed and unique insights into the physical world and the people who inhabit it. This is exactly where thematic maps come in.
Thematic maps help analyze data, tell a story, and find trends. Industries utilize different types of thematic maps depending on their needs and requirements. In this article, we’ll discuss thematic maps and how they help different industries in their corporate activities.
Definition and the 6 Types of Thematic Maps
Thematic maps present spatially-related statistical data. These maps help visualize spatial data and are powerful information transmission tools. They enable mapmakers and data analysts to express topics connected to a specific geographic area. There are 6 major types of thematic maps, and they include the following: choropleth, heat, dot, graduated and proportional symbol, 3D extrusion, and cartograms. Let’s explore what these maps are.
Types of Thematic Maps #1: Choropleth Maps
Choropleth maps are the most popular types of thematic maps. On this map, statistical data (density, percent, and value) are spread to highlight the differences between different geographic locations. Choropleth maps show and specify the regional borders of your data and help reveal insights. They have found widespread use and are crucial to firms’ geospatial analytics because of their adaptability.
They help in managing logistics across several industries. For instance, they can highlight the fastest route for delivery vans to reduce transportation costs. Engineers can also use them to monitor urban networks and infrastructures while working on smart city projects.
The bivariate map is a type of choropleth map. It uses two variables (as its name implies) instead of one to display densities. This compares two different distributions on the same map. The best use case for this type of thematic map is if you have two distinct attributes you want to display.
Types of Thematic Maps #2: Heat Maps
Heat maps, also known as isopleth maps, show the intensity of elements and have a strong symbolic meaning. These types of thematic maps use color variations that directly correspond to the importance of an event or scenario to aid in data visualization. Heat maps are helpful to businesses because they can describe patterns and trends irrespective of the location.
Types of Thematic Maps #3: Dot Maps
Dot density maps are a type of thematic map that extensively uses points, dots, and polygons to display the density of the numerical data values. The concentration of the chosen value increases with the number of dots in a specific area. On these types of maps, a dot could be a single data point or a group of data that share a characteristic. An on-demand supply and operations team can use this map type to get meaningful insights.
Types of Thematic Maps #4: Graduated and Proportional Symbol Maps
Compared to other types of thematic maps, symbol maps use dot size to depict the quantitative difference between data. The size of the dots on this map depends on the numerical value of the element each dot represents. To depict the quantitative difference, the size of the symbols varies according to the data value in ascending order.
Types of Thematic Maps #5: 3D Extrusion Maps
These types of thematic maps breathe life into static maps. They increase data visibility by adding a layer of 3D extrusions of objects or features. Features like buildings, altitudes, and traffic patterns that static maps can’t reveal are visible on these maps. They provide a broader perspective than a bird’s eye view, making it simple to identify spatial objects.
Types of Thematic Maps #6: Cartograms
Cartograms offer a novel perspective on distributing and presenting geographical data on a map. Users of these types of thematic maps can change the geographical size of the nations or regions following the density of their main focus.
For instance, on a cartogram, you can see the density of hectares of certified organic agriculture in each country. Businesses that deliver organic goods or produce organic food can use this information to decide on market expansion and logistics.
Types of Thematic Maps Symbols
On reference maps, symbols like a circle may indicate a major city, while a star can indicate a capital city. However, on thematic maps, symbols are the core element of the map, and they serve as the interface for visualizing geospatial data. Each of these symbols is associated with different types of thematic maps. Thematic map symbols include, but are not limited to:
- Proportional circles
- Color variations
- Arrows and lines to demonstrate flow
- Pie charts
8 Uses of Thematic Maps
We can visualize various types of thematic maps from the same data information by transcribing and evaluating a few elements per map. It can easily convert any non-visual information about a subject into an accessible visual form. This is why businesses and organizations need thematic maps. There are many uses for different types of thematic maps. Here are some of them:
- They help in deciding where to develop infrastructure to support services. For instance, areas that need charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs) or ATM infrastructure for banking self-services.
- To reduce idle time, they conduct demand-supply analysis, such as studying the mismatch between demand (orders, booked rides) and supply (riders, cab drivers).
- They assist with profitability analysis. This includes identifying suburbs where on-demand service is performing well and pinpointing locations with higher loan default rates. It also involves finding the right areas to acquire new users.
- They identify areas to run marketing campaigns. For instance, you can view countries where electric scooters are legal to run ad campaigns for e-scooter rental services. It can also measure conversion rates of marketing activities in each geography.
- They analyze product and project risk by identifying areas prone to calamities like landslides to measure what should be insurance coverage rates.
- They help to locate the origin of a problem. It can find accident-prone freeways/roads, discover stops with high customer drop-offs, and study ride cancellation reasons in different places.
- They analyze usage patterns. It can help determine which area utilizes a particular service (e.g., grocery, food, or package delivery) the most.
- They keep track of the market. It helps with monitoring changes/fluctuations in the market. For instance, it can check if a product’s orders fall due to the rise of competitors in an area.
List of Industries and Sectors That Use Thematic Maps
Whether or not you’re a map geek, you’ve probably seen at least one or more types of thematic maps before. An example is the COVID-19 map. The entire world observed this map to follow the virus’s spread around the globe. The map showed where the outbreak is under control, spreading, which direction the virus is migrating, and other pertinent information. They became the most popular visual medium for analyzing and viewing live updates.
Thus, thematic maps are integral in lots of industries and sectors. These are some of the markets and companies that use different types of thematic maps:
- Logistics & Transportation
- Supply Chain Management
- Financial Services
- Retail & Services Sector
- Health Services
- Energy & Environment
- Life Sciences
- Urban Planning
- Delivery Services
Thematic Maps vs. Reference Maps
People often wonder if thematic maps and reference maps are the same. However, in truth, they are different. Generally, reference maps show geographic information such as an area’s locations, boundaries, roads, mountains, rivers, and coastlines. Reference maps are mostly topographic maps and only show elevation changes.
On the other hand, thematic maps don’t just show natural and artificial features such as rivers, political subdivisions, and highways. Instead, they analyze and create insights from them. If these elements appear on a thematic map, they are reference points to enhance understanding of its theme and purpose.
Final Thoughts on Types of Thematic Maps
Data on a spreadsheet or graphs might not reveal important insights when conducting spatial data analysis. With different types of thematic maps, organizations can identify patterns, display trends, confirm a hypothesis, make critical decisions, and monitor progress.
Also, it is vital to note that certain mapping software can create simple thematic maps that allow you to visualize data and get useful insights. Mapize is an example of such a mapping tool that helps industries create sales territories based on multiple methodologies. Some of its methodologies include boundary mapping, heat maps, and 3D mapping. It is a powerful, cloud- and web-based mapping tool. Try us out and create your first map for free today!