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Home Page > Behind The Maps > Population Map > Contributors > Paul Breding
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Paul Breding

Paul Breding has a BA in Geography from the University of Colorado, and an MS in Geography from the University of South Carolina. His graduate work was primarily focused on the role of cartograms in K-12 Geography curriculums. Since then, he has worked as a Cartographer for educational publisher Nystrom, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and currently works for the Chicago Tribune.

Methodology: Creating a cartogram such as this one is a unique blend of math, geography, art, and logic. Starting with a data set (in this case world population by country) I had to decide what the value of each square was going to be. Given the dimensions of the map size and a world population of over 6.4 billion, it seemed that a value of 1 million people per square would provide for a decent amount of detail while still retaining room for the oceans inside the map area. Thus began the tedious process of creating the map itself. Each square was placed one by one until enough blocks were placed on the map to equal a countryıs population. For example, the United Statesı population of 296 million meant that it should be 296 squares big. So I placed 296 squares, taking care to try to retain the real-life shape of the country as much as possible. This was then repeated for Canada, which with a population of 33 million should be 33 squares big. But look at the map. Does Canada resemble itıs actual shape? Hardly. This is because while Canada may be a vast country, it has a very small population. So on this cartogram, Canada ends up being relatively small. Now, I could have used the 33 blocks for Canada and at least tried to make the shape similar to what it is in real life, but I also needed to try to retain boundary relationships with neighboring countries. So Canada ends up being a horizontal strip across the northern boundary of the United States and loses all of its Arctic expanse. These problems were encountered numerous times throughout the creation of the map. Each time I started working on a new country I had to think about preserving itıs real-life shape while also preserving the relationships with its neighboring countries. Sometimes this was easier to do than at other times. South America and Europe worked out pretty well because for the most part, larger countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Germany or France had larger populations, and smaller countries such as Uruguay or Switzerland had smaller populations. That meant there wasnıt much distortion in relative sizes, and therefore not much distortion in boundary relationships. But countries such as Nigeria, India, and China created special problems. Their populations were so large that not only is their size completely distorted compared to their real-life sizes, but they also distort all of their boundary relationships. This sometimes results in countries touching each other in the cartogram that donıt actually share a border in real life (Nigeria and Egypt, for example). In the case of Africa, I was less rigid in my attempt to retain boundary relationships and instead focused on retaining shapes of individual countries, and of the continent as a whole. And once Africa was done, I decided I didnıt quite like the shape of it, so I went back and moved some squares around until I had a shape that I was satisfied with. Unlike with a regular map, creating a cartogram is a bit like putting a puzzle together. Itıs OK to move things around, as long as everything fits and the size of areas are true to the data.

 

 

 

"Each time I started working on a new country I had to think about preserving it's real-life shape while also preserving the relationships with its neighboring countries.."

 

 

   

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