geosparklines, a twitter map story

On the 10th of April, I created a map to see the evolution of COVID cases in France as spatialized sparklines.

I first saw it like a good use case on how to use some QGIS related functions (QGIS is an opensource geospatial tool)

“Les Artisans cartographes” mentioned the map on twitter. Thereafter, many people started retweeting it. I didn’t expect it to make so much “noise”

For me, this representation was an efficient way to see evolutions on a map because you could observe the dynamics at a single glance.

Maybe this instantaneous look can help in emergency cases because you don’t need to press play and wait for every frame to complete in order to get “the big picture”.

For me, there was nothing much innovative or disruptive about this map. It had been a long time the idea was in my head and I had already experimented it around census data.

I thought someone had already created something similar. But Alberto Cairo, a world-reknown dataviz expert, seemed to have never seen something like this before, which surprised me.

Kenneth Field, who is a reknown map maker compares this kind of map with Minard’s (a great honor !)

Read this wonderful article around Minard

Well before I put the QGIS code to create the map on github and explained it on this blog, some people on twitter started to create their own. Later, I saw some similar maps emerge.

That’s a gallery of these initiatives you’ll discover here.


Czech Republic

Also this one :




Later, Kemper Smith made a US version

Washington Post

You can see that the Washington Post map is more sophisticated, with additional use of thickness to illustrate the current state (actual number of cases) and color to support the evolution

Note the Washington Post map was showcased on flowingdata, which is a reference media relaying dataviz experiments (also tutorials)

My experiments around this idea

An animated, worldwide and colored version

A hairy version

A scribbled version