Do I Have to Draw You a Map

MapsSetting aside this awful feeling for a moment: here are a few of my favorite electoral maps — from an information design perspective, not from an electoral math perspective — from this Election Day just past. It’s mildly interesting how the various news outlets and independent sources each tackled the challenge of visually assessing how the country voted. I say “mildly” because as a design problem, the electoral college is almost banal in its limitations. There are only so many ways you can show this data.

I don’t fault any of the designers of these maps for producing straightforward and relatively unambitious solutions. Sometimes, the most obvious answer is the most appropriate, and if nothing else, these are attractive designs that I genuinely like. Still, none of these achieve that perfect balance between functionality, ease-of-use and content. Probably, it would have been a good idea for me to hunt around some lesser-known outlets to ferret out some real information design gems — there must be some out there — but I was too busy hitting the Refresh button. And cringing.

C-SPAN

This one is my favorite, at least from an aesthetic standpoint. The slight perspective adds a touch of class, and they still manage to point directly to all of the smaller states in the northeast. I think the roll-over flag is super-sharp. The design handles zooming and panning a bit clumsily, but not as badly as some others.

C-SPAN Electoral Map

The New York Times

Though very slow in calling states for one candidate or the other last night, this map benefits from the Times’ high standards for information design. It just looks no-nonsense and definitive, what with all that data flashing about everywhere as you roll your mouse over the states.

New York Times Electoral Map - Geographic View

The Times gets some bonus points for including a prominent link that allows users to see the electoral value of each state, rather than the just traditional geographic view. This is a heartening mode for losers like me: the conventional geographic view always makes the advantage of the so-called red states seem tremendous and insurmountable compared to the spatially paltry blue states. Looking at the country according to who possesses electoral votes reminds us that almost half of the population voted for Senator Kerry. All hope is not lost.

New York Times Electoral Map - Electoral View

L.A. Times

This is big and hokey and, oddly, more reminiscent of the old school of USA Today’s infographics than even the map USA Today produced this year. Still, it has a kind of charm to it.

L.A. Times Electoral Map

USA Today

Surprisingly modernist and tasteful… excepting the fact that it hurts to look at those colors.

USA Today Electoral Map

Electoral-Vote.com

Not the prettiest by any means, but deserving of a special mention for consistently providing an interesting visual representation of polling data in all the months leading up to Election Day. A look through this site’s archives is an invaluable tour through the recent history of political strife this election season.

Electoral-Vote.com Map
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4 Comments

  1. The BBC had a great one – http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/americas/04/vote_usa/map/html/default.stm. A notification window popped up every time there was fresh data, and when a state had something new happen it started flashing. Zooming in on a state for more detail was nice and simple, and everything just fit together nicely.

    My only complaint was that once a state started flashing, there was no way of turning it off short of zooming in on it. After leaving the window open for an hour, half the country was lit up and I had to refresh the page to clear the recent memory. Other than that though, it was the clear winner to me.

  2. That map is cool (for some reason, the link doesn’t work even though it’s correct). It’s very nerdy, very much like a little desktop app. It’s interesting how the BBC would go that way for their map, while the news outlets in the state go with much more minimal functionality.