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I have already seen maps using deformation to visualize information. For example, this map shows temporal distance between some French cities when traveling by train:

Is there a name for this kind of map? Also, is this type of map available in any GIS software?

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The effect of the TGV (especially Paris-Dijon-Lyon) is particularly pronounced in this illustration. –  whuber Nov 8 '11 at 18:22

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

This is called a distance cartogram. Some add-ons for ArcGIS have been produced to create area cartograms. Mark Newman provides free GIS-independent software to implement his area cartogram method. Methods of creating distance cartograms are known in statistics as multidimensional scaling (MDS). I do not know of any GIS software that implements MDS, but it's available in full-featured statistical packages like Stata (commercial) and R (free).

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Scapetoad produces area cartograms, not distance cartograms. You can produce distance cartograms with Darcy http://www.spatial-modelling.info/Darcy-2-module-de-comparaison The page is in french. You can download the software in english (Java program) : http://www.spatial-modelling.info/IMG/jar/Darcy-2.0.jar

Before using Darcy you have to transform the distance matrix in coordinates (multi dimensional scaling). In R the simple function for MDS is cmdscale.

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There is another type which is called "Cartogram"
QGIS has a plugin to generate cartograms.
This one shows the size of the country based on GDP:
Cartogram of "GDP per capita" by country, 2000

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The original map is at maps.grida.no/go/graphic/world_economy_cartogram (Philippe Rekacewicz, UNEP/GRID-Arendal, Vladimir S. Tikunov). @Pablo appears to be correct but the legend title is wrong (and so is the description on the Web site): apparently, the map areas are proportional to GDP and the colors denote GDP per capita. –  whuber Mar 17 '11 at 19:35

Anamorphic map or even cartographic anamorphosis are also used.

Scapetoad does it.

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Looks like a great tool. Thanks for the tip! –  underdark Mar 19 '11 at 19:43

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