Generating Tile Maps


Tile maps are an important tool in thematic cartography with distinct qualities (and limitations) that distinguish them from better‐known techniques such as choropleths, cartograms and symbol maps. Specifically, tile maps display geographic regions as a grid of identical tiles so large regions do not dominate the viewer's attention and small regions are easily seen. Furthermore, complex data such as time series can be shown on each tile in a consistent format, and the grid layout facilitates comparisons across tiles. Whilst a small number of handcrafted tile maps have become popular, the time‐consuming process of creating new tile maps limits their wider use.

To address this issue, we present an algorithm that generates a tile map of the specified type (e.g. square, hexagon, triangle) from raw shape data. Since the ‘best’ tile map depends on the specific geography visualised and the task to be performed, the algorithm generates and ranks multiple tile maps and allows the user to choose the most appropriate. The approach is demonstrated on a range of examples using a prototype browser‐based application.

Citation information

McNeill, G. and Hale, S. A., Generating Tile Maps Computer Graphics Forum, Volume 36, Issue 3, June 2017, pp. 435-445  2017. DOI:

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