I love Nathan Yau’s tutorial on making choropleths from a SVG file. However, if you don’t have a SVG handy already and instead you want to repurpose a map from another vector format such as PDF or EPS, there are a few extra steps that can be done in the free tool Inkscape. And while I’m at it, how could I turn down the opportunity to replicate Nathan’s Python approach in R instead?
The following was inspired by the 300-page Census Atlas of the United States, full of beautiful maps of 2000 decennial census data. I particularly liked the small multiples of state maps, which were highly generalized (i.e. the fine detail was smoothed out) but still recognizable, and DC was enlarged to be big enough to see.
I have wanted a map like this for my own purposes, when mapping a variable for all 50 states and DC. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to track down any colleagues who know where to find the original shapefiles for this map. Fortunately, several images from the Census Atlas are available in EPS format near the bottom of this page, under “PostScript Map Files.” With access to such vector graphics, we can get started.