Mapping Month Roundup: 7 Different Types of Tableau Public Maps

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Posted by Ben Joneson January 26, 2016

Tableau Public isn't "all" about maps, but it's pretty close. Half of this year's Viz of the Day winners include a map of some kind or another. Maps in data visualization are a great way to show where things are happening, and in what relative amount. Journalists use them continually to give a critical geospatial perspective on the stories of our time. We'd be lost without maps.

Maps codify the miracle of existence.

Different Types of Tableau Public Maps

Tableau Public has supported maps since Tableau Public 4.0. Ever since then, data explorers have been creating digital maps with as little effort as a double-click of the mouse. Not all maps are created equal, though. There are different types of maps you can create using Tableau Public. Here are seven different types of maps we've seen authors around the world publish on Tableau Public in the past few weeks alone:

1. Path Maps: "David Bowie Tour History" by Jewel Loree

This elegant map and dashboard make use of the ability to create connected lines on top of maps. We call them "path maps" because they use the path function in the marks card area of Tableau to draw straight lines between locations:

2. Custom Polygon Maps: "Estado Islámico en Mapas (Islamic State in Maps)" by El Comercio

El Comercio's data journalist Angel Hugo Pilares created these custom polygon maps that give a territorial perspective to the Islamic State story. Hugo also used the path function, this time with polygon as the selected mark type:

3. Hex Maps: "The Gun Problem We Don't Mention" by Matt Chambers

Matt Chambers provides a sobering perspective on gun deaths in the United States using an interesting map type called hex maps. Hex maps skew the relative sizes of the locations (in this case, US states), but they have the benefit of allowing readers to see the data for even smaller locations, like Delaware or Rhode Island:

4. Custom Background Image Maps: "Stephen Curry Hates Mid-Range Jump Shots" by Andy Kriebel

Not all maps have to show the surface of the earth. Geospatial data is a special case of spatial data, and it's possible to create maps using custom background images as Andy Kriebel shows in this dashboard about Steph Curry, which features an image of a basketball court:

5. Choropleth Maps: "Spanish General Election 2015" by

Often mispronounced "chloropleth," choropleth maps are great tools to show how regions with different boundaries compare against each other. Tableau makes it easy to create choropleths, or filled maps, using standard regions such as countries, states, counties, zip codes, US congressional districts, and metro areas:

6. Custom Shape Maps: "Люди на болотах (People on the Moor)" by Vadim Shmygov of

We've seen maps with lines, regions, and circles, but it's also possible to add custom shapes to maps, as Vadim Shmygov of Belarus's shows in this map of the lowlands of his country:

7. Mapbox Style Maps: "UK Flood Map and River Levels" by Craig Bloodworth

With the release of Tableau Public 9.2 last year, authors were given the ability to easily and quickly integrate beautiful Mapbox styles to their visualizations. In this visualization, Craig Bloodworth of The Information Lab uses a custom Mapbox style to show where the risk was the highest during the recent flooding crisis in the UK.

What other map types have you seen published on Tableau Public? What about with other data visualization tools?

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