Following question has been put on hold for being primarily opinion-based:

Help choosing most suitable bivariate choropleth mapping coloring scheme

I think this might be based on the estimation that cartographic visualization advice is mainly based on someone's taste. But this is not true. There are rules in thematic cartography. Some are clear some are a bit more fuzzy but they exist. I admit there is sometimes more than one solution but there are clearly good and bad ones with respect to what one wants to communicate with a map. Many users that come from an IT or primarly GIS perspective are not aware of these rules. Where should they ask if not here?


2 Answers 2


While it is hard to argue against the fact that such questions will not have an obvious objectively right answer, we can still use sound judgement based on experience as cartographers and supply usefully objective advice (in addition to advice based on the immense amount of historical work in the field of cartography).

Here are a list of threads (just going through my answer list) that have such examples of no right answer but provide references and advice about displaying geographic data (obviously many others exist on the site).

This site is in a unique position where we can mix programming questions with more general questions related to cartography and geography. I think this is a very good thing, as it allows us to learn the craft in all of its aspects. I would be really saddened if cartography questions were deemed as off-topic here - as they obviously have a role right alongside programming questions for GIS users.

So I would vote that question should be re-opened.

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    +1. Agree. I think all it takes from us is to pay attention on duplicates and if we spot them correctly, there will be a rich "cartography" repository without cluttering the site. Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 14:42
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    +1 I agree. The particular question referenced here appears to be well-posed and invites objective and well-supported answers. It's really two separate questions, though, so I would be happier seeing them separated: one is the cartographic one of how to display the data; the other--which should be conditional on the answers to the first--is how to implement the recommended cartography in ggplot.
    – whuber
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 17:38
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    +1 I agree, they are absolutely not too opinion based. Staggered a GIS forum would ever suggest so. Are we just programmers now? Effective visualisation is a science and has standards and non empirical rules surrounding its suitability and best practice. Cynthia Brewer's work being an obvious example.
    – user21482
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 0:05
  • I have no problem with opinion based question/answer. Sometimes they are really helpful. Map visualization is a very important field in GIS and yes it is subject to opinion. The rules about closing opinion based question should be relaxed a bit. Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 14:05

I am not sure if the rich academic history of cartographic rules/design could be labeled "opinion based"...the academic work of Cynthia Brewer which can be distilled to this:http://www.personal.psu.edu/cab38/ColorBrewer/ColorBrewer_intro.html or the work of Terry Slocum at the U. of Kansas belie the idea that cartographic visualization is opinion based.


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