“Tile” map for TV

We share our experience in creating unusual geographical images.


Since the competition to create a tiled map of Russia almost 5 years have passed. The option won by Ivan Dianovand major media (for example, RIA, TASS, RBC) use it to publish statistical data.

The “tiled” map is not a new phenomenon in infographics: the first tiled map can be called The ethnic races of Hungary 1902.

The most common complaint about such infographics is the violation of interconnections between the subjects: the proximity of the regions is lost and the outline of the country changes. From the point of view of cartography, as such, it cannot be called a map. This is a special kind of geographical images, the distortion of the territory on which is inevitable.

For the “Need Graphics” team, it was a challenge not only to make a tiled map with minimal topological distortions, but also to adapt it for TV broadcast tasks. Especially since foreign colleagues already have such experience.

Finding your own solution

The difficulty with creating a tiled map is that by using the same squares, you need to maintain a recognizable image.

So you decided to make a tiled map. In what order will you add tiles to a sheet? The square has 4 direct neighbors and 4 “diagonal” neighbors, but in reality the subject may have more neighbors. Or the region can be borderline, then out of eight potential places for neighbors, you need to allocate one for the outer border.

How to choose what is more important, which region to provide with neighbors? You can start from the alphabetical order of the regions or just add left-to-right/top-to-bottom.

We decided that the complexity of relations between subjects can be judged by the number of neighbors in the region, so we took this indicator as a basis. Also, do not forget about the border regions, because they form the contour of the country.

We calculated neighbors for all subjects, starting from the north and moving clockwise. We divided the resulting value by 8 for inland regions and by 7 for border regions. As a result, we got a conditional rank – the higher it is, the earlier we add an object to the map sheet, and insert the rest according to the residual principle.

According to our calculations, the Kirov region has the most neighbors, but is inferior in rank to the Krasnoyarsk Territory, since it is a border region. When gradually adding objects, taking into account the rank, regions with a small number of neighbors are added at the very end and stand in free places.

The result did not live up to expectations. The outlines of the country are hard to guess. The large regions of Siberia in the tiled format turned out to be small and the map “twisted”. The main reason is that in the European part there are many subjects with a small area, while in Siberia it is the opposite. Using the chosen methodology, it is difficult to distribute neighbors around subjects such as the Krasnoyarsk Territory, where 5 neighbors are distributed along the western border.

Next, another approach was tested: we keep the relationship within the administrative units of a larger area. For example, federal districts. At the same time, they should not be torn, but try to be “geographically” located relative to each other.

At first, the tiled map looked “rectangular” and the outlines of Russia were faintly guessed. But by combining this version with the version that took into account the neighborhood, we got what we wanted: the federal districts are not broken, the ties between neighbors are somehow preserved. But the outlines of the country are still not guessed, the image is too schematic.

Of the obvious shortcomings – the absence of a “bottleneck” when moving from the central part to the southern (Rostov-Volgograd regions). And again there was not enough room for Moscow. Some may say that this is not scary – this way the comparison of the capital with other regions is even clearer. But this alignment is not for us, because the principle of geographical similarity is not respected.

Since tiled maps are a subgroup schematic anamorphoses, we decided to try to push off from the anamorphic map. With the help of geoinformation technologies, they tried to bring all the subjects of the Russian Federation to a single area: small ones increased, large ones decreased, and communications were left.

It no longer looks like a familiar geographical map, but using it as a base for creating a tiled map is just right. When distributing the squares, we tried to place them closer to the center of the anamorphic regions. As a result, it even turned out to fit Moscow together with the rest of the regions.

Using a tile map

Having received a version of the tiled map, which passed according to our criteria, we tried to talk about the situation with vaccination in Russia. The theme is perfect for a tiled map, as the main goal is to make all regions visible.

Was at work here is the draft version.

But it never went on the air, partly because of the difficulty of perceiving information in this form in a short time.

However, in cases where a person has time to study the material, a tile map can be a good basis for infographics. So in the process of searching for the best option for us, we thought that the tiled map is very similar to the periodic table of Mendeleev, where each region is a separate element. With this approach, information about subjects can be conveyed in the form of properties of elements, as in the present periodic table. The resulting poster can help when studying the administrative division of Russia in geography lessons.

What is the result

A tiled map is definitely an interesting way to visualize, but you should not use it alone. A form is simply a tool for interpreting information.

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