Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mystery Shapes

Irregular blue shape comprising New York City's metropolitan area
How cool is this?

An artist named Neil Freeman, whose website is called, has created a graphic that extracts the largest U.S. metropolitan areas from their states' outlines, then arranges the resulting shapes in order of population.

So, for instance, the population of one city might be more than that of the rest of its state, in which case the city would be listed before the state. Plus, the shapes are scaled relative to their populations, so a state might appear to be smaller than a city that is part of it.

It's hard to picture in the abstract, I know, so you'll just have to go see it (the cities are blue, the states orange). If you put your mouse over any of the shapes and wait a second, a label will appear to tell you what it is.

The best fact I learned from studying the graphic: Eight of the states (Delaware, Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, Montana and Hawaii) have a population smaller than any of the 50 cities, including the smallest city on the list (Rochester, N.Y.).

Freeman is an urban planner and map geek, from the looks of things on his website. Another fascinating map he created reshapes and renames the states so they each have roughly the same number of electoral votes. Clearly, this means some are very small geographically (basically cities) while other are huge. (Click the map to see it larger.)

Redrawn U.S. map as described
I'm pretty happy with the way Minnesota got grouped with western Wisconsin and northern Iowa into the mythical land of St. Croix. We have a name for that in these parts -- Minnewisowa.

Not as happy about what became of upstate New York (it's kind of odd to think of areas almost as far east as the Hudson being named for Lake Erie... okay, maybe it's a reference to the Erie Canal, but still, a bit of a stretch). I'm sure others would find things to grouse about as well, but the idea is brilliant.

As Freeman writes in the accompanying text:

The map was laid out with no political orientation or wealth. As a result, states may favor one or the other parties. A map redrawn to result in states that, politically, individually reflect the entire nation would be interesting to see. A map that divided that states evenly according to wealth would also be interesting.
Yet another shrine found on the interweb. (Via

1 comment:

Ms Sparrow said...

Would that be the opposite of gerry-mandering?