Creating Map Stories

By Devarani Bodanapu & Richie Lionell

* Last updated on 18 December 2020

Work in progress

There's a good chance that most of the data you handle at work contains some geographic information. The insights that we derive from this data are best understood when told through maps. Maps are as common as bar & pie charts. Just because our audiences are familiar with maps, we shouldn't assume that "they will get it". The insights need to be explained explicitly in a particular sequence to make sure they get it.

The ingredients* to a map story are;

  1. A Map
  2. Explanation structures
  3. Sequence methods
  4. Optional presence of a Presenter

*These guidelines are tool agnostic and can be executed in multiple ways in most tools.

Insights are explained mostly using one or more of these structures.

  • Degrees of comparison
  • Up or Down
  • Percentages, Fractions & Ratios
  • Then vs Now
  • X & Y are related
  • Question & Answer
  • Assumption vs Fact
  • Claim -> Fact 1 -> Fact n -> Close
  • Recommendation -> Insight 1 -> Insight n

The explanation structures combine with one of the following linear sequences to communicate the map story;

  • Steppers
  • Numbered Tiles
  • Tabs
  • Panels
  • Scrollytelling
  • Carousel
  • Swipe
  • Video

A comic character could be used to play the role of a narrator. The emotion of the character can be mapped to the sentiment of the story. This helps humanise the communication experience to a large extent.

Let's take a look at how the 4 ingredients come together to form useful map stories. In the first 5 of the seven examples we use the RII (Recommendation -> Insight 1 -> Insight n) explanation structure with 6 varying sequence structures.

Example 1: Stepper | RII

Example 2: Stepper dots | RII

Example 3: Tabs | RII

Example 4: Carousel | RII

Example 5: Tile | RII

In the next 2 examples, we see how the 'X & Y are related' explanation structure can be used with the 'Swipe' & 'Panel' sequences.

Example 6: Swipe | X&Y are related

Example 7: Panel | X&Y are related

Do try a combination of the explanation & sequence structures to create your map story. These techniques are not just for maps but could be applied with other charts as well.

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