Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sub Prime Mortgages Map: Great Design

A Wonderful Solution to Scale issue: Matthew Bloch and Ford Fessenden have a wonderful example of dealing with scale issues: Subprime Mortgages in the New York Region. Use the scale map on the right to zoom right out and rolling over areas will automatically select counties. Double click and you zoom in, rollover now activates sub county areas. Intuitive and slick.

Other Points about the Subprime Map I like:
  • The key is a sensible blend of colors from covering large areas: pastel shades and a sensible set of colors.
  • The key uses rounded data bins (i.e. 40 - 50% rather than 41.234 - 62.766)
  • You inspect data by rolling over rather than having to click on and off
  • The double map system for navigation works well
  • It uses simple color to distinguish values rather than prism height.
  • The data in the pop up balloon equivalent is a very simple 3 variables. People often pack too much into pop up balloons like these.
  • It has links to 3 popular views on the right. Helpful and good to keep that list short.
Minor Problems:
  • Being able to toggle satellite data on and off may help with helping users see where they are.
  • The counties are labeled in upper case, mixed case is easier to read.
  • There is some sort of flash based vector problem with edge views of the polygons.
But overall, this is the best interactive web map I can remember seeing. Well done!


Tom said...

Or that map is a lop-sided representation of the race and class-charged problem of inappropriate lending practices. By only offering %subprime, %white, and income, the map is practically saying, "Poor non-whites are irresponsible borrowers." What the map should really strive to offer is the fact that rich, white people are greedy and willing to lend to anyone to make a quick buck. This map distorts the reality of the situation terribly. I'm severely disappointed in the NYT.

Rich Treves said...


Firstly, my discussion of the map was from a design point of view, I wasn't praising it for its content but the way it presented that content.

That being said, I wouldn't ever want to promote material that is inappropriate on my blog so your point is definately worth considering.

I would counter your point by saying that your comment 'Poor non-whites are irresponsible borrowers' is an interpretation of the data, not an explicit point that was made by the map. I could make an interpretation from the same data 'Non-whites are generally poor and poor people have been misold mortgages they didn't understand'. I think that's just as valid.

However, race is a very sensitive issue in discussions of society so to some extent I do agree with you that putting it as a variable in the way that its been done was liable to produce strong reactions. When plotting anything about race we have to be very careful about what conclusions people are going to come to and in this case more care probably could have been taken.