How We Use Thematic Maps In Everyday Life

Thematic maps are one of the greatest inventions as they allow us to learn about the world around us and are frequently used in everyday life. The information allows the government to plan resources, prepare for natural disasters, and so much more. Whether it’s a world map, country map, or just your city, we can all gain and learn something from thematic maps. 

What Are Thematic Maps?

Thematic maps portray the geographic pattern of a particular subject matter in that area. In addition, the maps note features that aren’t naturally visible with symbols. This can include temperature, language, or population.

The 7 Most Common Thematic Map Types

  • Choropleth
    Bar Harbor Wood Chart in solid frame
  • Dot Distribution
  • Graduated Symbol
  • Heat Maps
  • Cartogram
  • Bivariate Choropleth
  • Value by Alpha

Choropleth Thematic Maps

One of the most frequently used types of thematic maps, choropleth maps, use color to represent statistics of an attribute feature in proportion to its location. For example, the unemployment rate of each county in the state. This type of map is excellent at displaying densities using color.   

Dot Distribution Thematic Maps

A dot distribution map or a dot density map uses dots to display the presence or absence of a feature. This can look like a variation of marks all over the map. This is because each point represents a larger quantity. For example, if a map shows how many indigenous people live in an area, they may use one dot per 100 indigenous people. Different colors can also be used to represent different categories.

Graduated Symbol Thematic Maps

Looking for an alternative to choropleth maps? The graduated symbol map is exactly what you need. Using points instead of colors when indicating feature attributes or statistics, these graduated symbol maps are more successful at showing raw quantities rather than densities by conveying the where and how much. 

Heat Thematic Maps

Heat maps are used to display the density of points on a map while effectively visualizing the intensity of the variable using a color scale. The heat map focuses on hot spots or specific concentration points, making it easy to understand relationships between data points and the overall trend. 

Cartogram Thematic Maps

Charleston, South Carolina Wood Chart in solid frame

A cartogram thematic map rescales an area proportional to the feature it represents. The rescaled size is meant to communicate the feature attributes selected. While there are several different cartograms, the most-used one is a contagious cartogram map. These maps maintain topology but distort the shape dramatically. These maps are used for showing numbers, such as the number of people in each area.

Bivariate Choropleth Thematic Maps

Bivariate choropleths are like choropleth maps; however, they use two variables to display densities. This method allows us to compare two different distributions on the same map. These maps are pleasing to the eye and allow us to visualize two separate themes simultaneously. These maps aren’t always easy to read, though, so do your homework on using them successfully to avoid confusion. 

Value by Alpha Thematic Maps

Value by Alpha (VBA) is used when two variables are considered that affect each other. For example, election results and population density. The second variable will act as an equalizer for the variable of interest. The higher value is brighter in color, while the lower value will fade into the background. 

Value by Alpha maps were created to reduce the larger size bias in choropleth maps. While aesthetically pleasing to the eye, they aren’t always the easiest to read and will only display bivariate relationships with three classes or more.  

The World Map and How We Use It

Salish Sea, Washington Wood Chart in solid frame

A world map is exactly as it sounds—but on an enormous scale. These world maps have measured earthquakes, the tallest buildings globally, time zones, and so much more. World maps teach us about the world around us and help us discover new things and plan exciting trips to new places. 

If you want to explore more of the world, grab a world map and see what sparks your interest. Looking to visit places with the most snow in January? Or fulfill your dream of chasing tornados? World maps provide this information, allowing you to chase your dreams!

If you have a world map and are using it to plan your next adventure, don’t forget to commemorate the trip with a wood map. It’s a great way to bring a stunning piece of décor that has meaning into your home.

The Country Map and How We Use It

Country maps are like world maps, just on a smaller scale. Country maps are perfect for planning your cross-country road trip. Grab a country map that shows the average temperature for the month(s) you’ll be traveling to ensure comfort for your entire trip. Stopping in Maine, Washington, or South Carolina at specific times of the year can be warm or cold, so do your research. 

Working on a history project? A country map can provide detailed information about numerous topics, from politics to the environment. We recommend using country maps to your advantage, whether it’s learning new things about your country or preparing for a big trip to the Great Lakes

Thematic Maps & Technology

While we use technology for maps in our everyday lives, navigating from place to place, technology also offers information we aren’t even aware of. Looking to expand your horizons, learn something new, or plan your next adventure? These are our tried-and-true software recommendations for all your qualitative needs!

Alaska Wood Chart in solid frame

Our Top 3 Map Software Recommendations

  • Google Maps
  • NVivo

Using Google Maps for Thematic Data on Your Phone

If you are interested in learning more about the thematic data in your area, Google Maps offers it right on your phone! It incorporates Google Earth, allowing you to create a simplified map with data or help you locate one. 

MAXQDA Software

MAXQDA is all-in-one thematic software that can help you quickly identify and analyze patterns or themes. Offering numerous tools within the software, this is one of the top-rated products around to assist in thematic analysis.  

NVivo Software

NVivo is also qualitative data analysis software that helps researchers organize, analyze, and find insights in instructed or qualitative data. Let it help you work more efficiently and provide deeper analysis. 

As you can see, thematic maps are all around us. They bring us extensive knowledge, actionable data, and teach us about the world around us. From planning for an election to preparing for natural disasters, these maps provide necessary information we use every day. Grab a world map, a country map, or a map of your state today and see what you can learn!

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