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#MakeoverMonday: Data Science Degrees and Tile Maps

I have recently been experimenting with what I've seen being referred to as a tile map, grid map or periodic map. NPR did a great write up on traditional choropleth maps, cartograms and tile maps.
Some awesome Tableau folks have also done great tutorials and published these non-traditional map types publically including Brittany Fong, Matt Chambers and Kris Ericson. There are definitely instances where this type of map enhances the data view or enables better flow and certainly some where it won't be suitable (for example, showing data at the county level among others - example).

I came into this field from a non-traditional background like many others. There's definitely an emergence of new or rebranded data science degree and certificate programs. I was excited when I came across Dan Murray's article on the Interworks Blog that used data and an awesome tableau visualization to show programs throughout the U.S. Since I came across this at the same time that I was experimenting with tile maps I thought it was a great candidate for a little makeover!

One of the benefits that I find particularly useful in the right scenarios is that by normalizing the size of the of states, you set yourself up for success in then using that map view to drive action filters. So, for example, if the map is the driver of more granular analysis it's so much easier to show New England, D.C., Hawaii and Alaska and enhances the user experience by making it easier for them to select the state. I love that you can still color them based on another level of dimensionality and add labels.

For this viz, I felt that the geographic borders of the state or any sub-level information weren't necessary for visualizing which states have schools that offer degrees in this subject area. The color really allows you to quickly zone in on higher saturations. I think it's much easier to to filter with this view as well. Also, by including Hawaii and Alaska it lets the user know with certainty that those states don't have schools that offer the program area versus being left to assume or guess. I think for American's using this visualization comes with less risk as the orientation of the states in relation to one another is more known. Interestingly enough, I demoed this map style to an internal functional group and my coworker from China said she felt like the map was easier for her to understand than the choropleth. I could see, however, how it might pose challenges to others.

Have you used these map styles and, if so, what was the use case? I'd love to see other's out there on Tableau public of hear of business applications.


  1. Nice work! I'm going to experiment with this visualization type. Thanks for posting.

    1. Thanks, Dan! I loved your viz and wanted to experiment with seeing it in a different light. :)

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