02.07.2021 by Līva Luriņa
When it comes to telling powerful, data-driven stories, data visualization plays a vital role. If you’re specifically shaping the story all around geographic data or information that goes in the context of a specific area, then you should turn to custom maps. Maps help the audience quickly understand geographically visualized data and add crucial context to your story.
Why and how to make custom maps
There are times when general map solutions are not enough to express the data at the detailed level you need, such as reporting sales results for LATAM countries or election results for local districts. While you can already customize, zoom in, and edit any of the 800+ country and region maps in Infogram, you can also upload your own custom map.
To use custom maps, you’ll need an Infogram Enterprise plan, which allows teams to make custom maps collaboratively for several different projects in a time-efficient manner.
You can create custom maps via Infogram in three simple steps:
- Upload custom map files to your library and use them in your Infogram projects (choose from JSON, GeoJSON, KML, or TopoJSON formats)
- Set the parameters of your map (ID, labels, and groups)
- Design and customize the map
Once you’ve uploaded a custom map or picked one from a template gallery, it’s time to customize the map design and settings.
Here are three best practices for making custom maps:
1. Choose the map type that meets your project goal
As all the data visualization best practices emphasize, you should start with a clear project goal whenever you’re creating a chart, graph, or map. It’s a total waste of time to drag the data into the editor if you don’t know what message you’re trying to deliver.
Once you’ve set a goal, it’s time to choose the most appropriate map type. There are two main map types:
- Area maps show a distribution within a group of continents, regions, countries, or other locations
- Icon maps are perfect for pinpointing and highlighting specific locations of the map
Each map type is divided into three map styles:
- Heatmaps display data values on a scale from low to high, usually represented by a color gradient. It’s a common way to visualize data points like population density, temperature changes, and much more.
- Individual and group area maps highlight specific locations or group trends, and are helpful to show comparisons (such as religion distribution around the world or election results in countries).
2. Customize maps with a clean design
Transferring cold, hard data into an eye-catching and interactive map can make a big difference. The faster your audience understands the main message of your visualization, the more successful your story will be.
And here’s where customization and design come into play. Infogram’s editor has a wide range of useful features to customize your project with:
- Choose the most appropriate text font, size, layout, legend style, and value distribution
- Adjust colors for the map area
- Use branding to merge the map design with the company’s visual style
- Place and customize markers to pinpoint particular locations
- Set the zoom levels to bring focus on smaller areas
- Add background layers to create a more engaging look
- Implement unique templates for the whole team (available in Infogram’s Enterprise plan)
But always keep in mind – less is more.
Here’s an example of how to combine a lot of data and numbers with a clean design.
It’s super easy to confuse the audience with dense and messy visualizations if you include all your data at once. Be careful and find the balance between comprehensive information and tidy labels, legends, and images.
3. Bring your creativity beyond the map borders
Keeping the design simple doesn’t mean the map should be dull. Be creative with the interactivity and engagement part of your dataviz project – let it shine and tell the story by itself.
If your custom map is ready to roll, but you want to spice it up a bit, try some of these tips for improving the user experience:
- Try different output formats
With Infogram, you can download the map project in different formats or embed it on the web. By doing so, you’ll improve the engagement rate of visualization and audience interest in the story.
- Use callouts for extra information
With callouts, you can give the audience additional context on the data without taking up extra space on the canvas. It’s convenient for maps — you can include text and images in the callouts about specific places.
- Create an infographic
If there’s more information than a single map can hold, infographics can bring your story to another level. Combine maps with charts, tables, text boxes, images, and much more to give your audience a whole new story experience.
- Reach the next data visualization level with your team
Infogram Enterprise plan users can receive custom designs, branded profiles and subdomains, priority support, and tailored training for your team to master map customization and data-driven storytelling more skillfully than ever before.
Infogram’s map maker offers more than 800 interactive maps that can be fully customized and shared via social sites, landing pages, and presentations — start creating impactful stories that go beyond the map borders.
Custom maps, together with other valuable features, are available for Infogram Enterprise plan users. Sign up for a free trial or request a demo and unlock the full power of data visualization for your business.
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