The map has many of the design virtues common in graphics from the Times (clean, focused on the data, clearly labeled, small multiples), but when I first viewed it I had trouble parsing the data. It took me a while to figure out that hazard was indicated by color, and the size of each circle denoted ancilliary information (population).
It turns out that our eyes & brains perceive area more strongly than color. Here’s a list of ways to visually compare quantities (described by Bang Wong in his Points of View column for Nature Methods), in order from easiest to hardest:
- Positions on a common scale
- positions on the same but nonaligned scales
- angles, slopes
- volume, color saturation
- color hue
I suspect I’m not the only person who would consider the size of the circles more important than the color, and assume size was correlated with hazard. I had to carefully read the key to figure out the proper way to read the map. Perhaps using size to encode hazard, and color (or opacity, or icons) for population would have worked better.