Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Cartogr J. 2010 May 1;47(2):130-140.

Value-by-alpha maps: An alternative technique to the cartogram.

Author information

GeoVISTA Center, Penn State University, 302 Walker Building, University Park, PA 16802.


The cartogram, or value-by-area map, is a popular technique for cartographically representing social data. Such maps visually equalize a basemap prior to mapping a social variable by adjusting the size of each enumeration unit by a second, related variable. However, to scale the basemap units according to an equalizing variable, cartograms must distort the shape and/or topology of the original geography. Such compromises reduce the effectiveness of the visualization for elemental and general map-reading tasks. Here we describe a new kind of representation, termed a value-by-alpha map, which visually equalizes the basemap by adjusting the alpha channel, rather than the size, of each enumeration unit. Although not without its own limitations, the value-by-alpha map is able to circumvent the compromise inherent to the cartogram form, perfectly equalizing the basemap while preserving both shape and topology.

PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center