One critical visual task when using choropleth maps is to identify spatial clusters in the data. If spatial units have the same color and are in the same neighborhood, this region can be visually identified as a spatial cluster. However, the choice of classification method used to create the choropleth map determines the visual output. The critical map elements in the classification scheme are those that lie near the classification boundary as those elements could potentially belong to different classes with a slight adjustment of the classification boundary. Thus, these elements have the most potential to impact the visual features (i.e., spatial clusters) that occur in the choropleth map. We present a methodology to enable analysts and designers to identify spatial regions where the visual appearance may be the result of spurious data artifacts. The proposed methodology automatically detects the critical boundary cases that can impact the overall visual presentation of the choropleth map using a classification metric of cluster stability. The map elements that belong to a critical boundary case are then automatically assessed to quantify the visual impact of classification edge effects. Our results demonstrate the impact of boundary elements on the resulting visualization and suggest that special attention should be given to these elements during map design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7536141
Pages (from-to)371-380
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2017


  • Choropleth
  • Classification
  • Geodemographics
  • Geovisualization
  • Visualization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Signal Processing
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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