These three maps represent my first real foray into dot density mapping. I used ArcGIS to generate the dots (unfortunately, QGIS doesn’t provide an easy way to do this), and then stylized the dots (and other reference layers) in Illustrator. Per John Nelson’s suggestion, I used NASA’s population density imagery as an ancillary masking layer, in order to prevent dots from being drawn in uninhabited areas.
While these maps look pretty cool – in my eyes, at least – the discerning cartographic critic will be quick point out a few potentially misleading shortcomings. For one, the dots on the religion map closely mirror the country’s overall population distribution. (E.g., the tri-state area appears to harbor an exceptionally devout population, when in reality, the tri-state area just has a lot people in general.) While this doesn’t necessarily render the data meaningless, it does prevent the viewer from identifying any interesting trends or patterns. Also, Oregon’s biggest cities appear to contain many more elderly citizens than juveniles. In fact, the purple (juvenile) dots simply rendered first, and were consequently obscured by the orange dots. This problem can be partially resolved by reducing the opacity or the size of the dots, but both of these options produce other unwanted side effects.
So, while these maps don’t exactly lie to their viewers, they only reveal partial truths. That being said, they were super fun to produce, and are fun to look at, and so I’ll go ahead chalk this project up to a partially successful work-in-progress. As I continue dig deeper into this US Religion Census dataset, I hope to produce some more enlightening, and meaningful, visualizations. Assuming I don’t get distracted by the 37 other projects I’m trying to juggle. Stay tuned.