CV-12 - Multivariate Mapping

Bivariate and multivariate maps encode two or more data variables concurrently into a single symbolization mechanism. Their purpose is to reveal and communicate relationships between the variables that might not otherwise be apparent via a standard single-variable technique. These maps are inherently more complex, though offer a novel means of visualizing the nuances that may exist between the mapped variables. As information-dense visual products, they can require considerable effort on behalf of the map reader, though a thoughtfully-designed map and legend can be an interesting opportunity to effectively convey a comparative dimension.

This chapter describes some of the key types of bivariate and multivariate maps, walks through some of the rationale for various techniques, and encourages the reader to take an informed, balanced approach to map design weighing information density and visual complexity. Some alternatives to bivariate and multivariate mapping are provided, and their relative merits are discussed.