Visual maps: The Waldo trap

If it’s easier to find Waldo in a “Where’s Waldo?” book than getting at least one relevant content in your visual map, it means your are doing it wrong.

A common mistake when creating visual maps is to map absolutely everything you hear. The result of this bad habit is a map that creates visual crowding. That’s the concept behind the Waldo books series that make us to take too much time to find the character. Crowding limits peripheral visual discrimination and recognition: a target easily identified in isolation becomes more difficult to recognize when surrounded by other elements.

You fall into the Waldo trap if:

– at first impression is a mess.

– it lacks sequentiality

– there are not white spots areas that give elements some air around.

– color in your map doesn’t highlight but confuses.

– all drawings have the same size and scale.

– it ‘s hard to understand what the topic is about.

– it takes too much time to spot important things.

Visual crowding works in Waldo books because they turn something negative into a purpose: to find a character. You can’t do that in a visual map.
Can you imagine saying to your public: “Try to find the relevant information here” Of course not. Draw just what is important for your audience. And always remember: you are not drawing for yourself.

Avoid visual crowding by keeping everything as simple as possible. Set which are the most important things on your map and help the audience to identify those spots by playing with color, size and space in a smart way.

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