Maps We Love


A map can change the world. And so can you. With the right resources, you too can create beautiful, powerful maps like these that we love.


Death in the Grand Canyon

Why We Love It

Morbid as its theme may be, this map makes great use of hexagonal binning and chromastereoscopic color — which means it can be viewed holographically in 3D if you’re wearing special glasses. Dramatic, rich colors remind us of the power and beauty of the Grand Canyon. As we zoom in, the map reveals more information and shows details-on-demand encouraging us to explore.

Why It Works

Inspired by the book, Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon, this map helps tell the fascinating and heartbreaking stories of more than 700 lives lost. The map quickly shows patterns, clusters, and isolated incidents across the national park so we can understand how and where people died. The almost abstract style and strong colors invite further inquiry.

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Learn more about how the map was created.


Global Air Traffic as Data Art

Why We Love It

You’ve heard of art for art’s sake. We love this map because it is data for art’s sake — the growing cartographic practice of data art. This kind of map creates its own aesthetic through patterns made by data. In this case, the map shows all known connections between origin and destination airports across the globe, a total of 58,000 routes on one map. A single, bright color atop a dark, simple basemap provides high contrast and immediate visual impact.

Why It Works

This map uses high contrast and a limited color palette. To achieve harmony, there is artful interplay between background and foreground. The design is dramatic, showing the dataset and letting the patterns speak for themselves. Using very high transparency on individual symbols (98%) shows density of routes in congested areas and avoids a jumbled mess of lines. Projection is also important and here, Web Mercator transforms essentially straight flight paths into beautiful curves.

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Learn more about how the map was created.


Highway Access in Europe

Why We Love It

A quick look at this map reveals stunning patterns. Some cities forbid highways from even approaching their center, while others are surrounded by highways. The map reveals neighborhood-level detail as well as citywide and even regional patterns. We love the addition of live web cams to help tell the story of European cities and their relationship to highways.

Why It Works

This map shows you right away the areas in Europe that are within 10 minutes of a highway exit. It makes it easy to understand which cities and even neighborhoods are most accessible by highway. The colors represent increments of 1-, 3-, 5-, and 10 minutes from a highway exit. The colors get brighter, much like car headlights, to show that a city is closer to a highway.

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Learn more about how the map was created.


Once Upon a River

Why We Love It

This map application is deceptively simple upon first glance, but rewards your curiosity with every mouse click. As you explore each river you find rich details and stunning patterns. Move your cursor over a river to see its network and a month-by-month chart of water flow for 2014. We also love this feature: Put your cursor at the center of the radial chart, and slowly pull downward to navigate a river from where it meets the ocean or international border.

Why It Works

On this map, every pixel is data. It does not have unnecessary ornamentation, not even the traditional basemap, borders, and text labels. Now the data and its patterns take center stage. This interactive map shows us how river flow changes throughout the year, and how the timing of maximum flow changes based on geographic region. This same technique could be used to map rail, logistics, shipping, or telecommunications.

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Learn more about how the map was created.


Presidential Election Results by Precinct

Why We Love It

Who won the election and was it by a landslide or a thin margin? We love that this map lets you zoom into regions within each state, to investigate variation hidden within final totals and see voting patterns along with close calls. A map like this would be valuable to politicians looking for battleground areas, or anyone who wants to see how people vote from city to city.

Why It Works

This map gives an in-depth look at the 2008 US presidential election. We’ve all seen a “red state, blue state” map, but what sets this one apart is that it shows areas where the vote was close, highlighted in white. These “on the bubble” areas are where a campaign manager might want to invest more energy.

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Learn more about how the map was created.


Birds vs Aircraft by Month

Why We Love It

A coxcomb chart (first used by Florence Nightingale) is a great way to display multiple facts at one location over time. We love how this map shows quantity and seasonal variation as part of the display, so you don’t have to use pop-ups or multiple maps to get a full picture of bird-related airstrikes on civilian aircraft. The graphic legend is not hidden — a good choice for this map. We also love that as you zoom, the analysis is resampled to create finer resolution coxcombs.

Why It Works

A terrific amount of information is packed into this map. It’s easy to see regional differences and distinct seasonal patterns around the country. Each segment of the coxcomb diagram represents a unique time period and quantity. Because the sectors all have the same angle, they are visually equivalent when used to represent area. This makes the chart easy on the eyes, and the multiple wedge-shaped proportional symbols help us understand differences in quantity.

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Learn more about how the map was created.


Above & Below the Poverty Line

Why We Love It

This map reveals the sobering fact that, in nearly every part of American cities, there are people living in poverty. We can see the ratio of households living above and below the poverty line. We also get a clear visualization of neighborhoods that struggle with poverty and the issues often tied to it. We love that this maps lets you click on each neighborhood for more details.

Why It Works

A map of ratios can be powerful. In the US overall, there are 6.2 households living above the poverty line for every household living below. This map uses green to indicate areas with a higher than normal ratio of households living above, compared to below, poverty. Orange areas show a higher than normal ratio of households living below the poverty line.

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Learn more about how the map was created.


To see even more maps we love, visit esri.com/mapswelove.

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