If you are from the Tableau community, you would have observed that more and more people are using hex tile maps these days. It became popular after Tableau Zen Master – Matt Chambers first wrote about it. Below is a screenshot of the design he created. The map looked very cool and I wanted to use it in one of my visualizations.

hex map

Hex tile map by Matt Chambers

What is a Hex Tile Map?

Hex Tile Maps are created by arranging hexagons closely in the form of grids where each hexagon represents a qualitative value. In the above case, the hexagons represent the states in the US. The quantitive values can be represented using colors or by varying the size of the hexagon.

Hex tile maps are useful for the following reasons:

  1. All the states will be of equal size. This avoids smaller states and islands getting ignored.
  2. Easy to differentiate or compare all the states and focus on the ones which need attention.
  3. Territories which are at multiple locations can be clubbed and shown as one.

For my visualization, I chose a data set which was based Indian states. While the hex maps were created for the US, it was not available for India (correct me if I’m wrong). Hence I decided to create a hex tile map for India which can be used by others too as a template for their visualizations.

How did I create Hex Tile Map for India?

First, I added a hexagon shape to the tableau shapes repository. Next, I created a template in Excel to align these hexagons. The challenge here was to represent Indian states with equal sized hexagons (Unlike US, Indian states come in very different shapes and sizes) and align these hexagons so that the overall map looks like India. After multiple iterations, I finalized my template. The file can be downloaded here.

Now, to build the hex tile map in Tableau follow the below steps.

1. Open the downloaded template (excel) file in Tableau
2. Add Row to Rows
3. Add Column to Columns
4. Edit the axis for Row and reverse the scale
5. Change the mark type to Shapes and add State Code to Shapes
6. Change the shape to the hexagon you added to your repository
7. Hide the Row and Column header
8. Add the sheet to your dashboard
9. Adjust the size of the hexagons to get a proper hex tile map view on your dashboard

That’s it! Here is how it looks when compared to the normal map.

hex tile map

Normal Map vs Hex Tile Map

Note: The union territories Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu and Puducherry are displayed separately at the bottom right as they couldn’t fit on the map or they were at multiple locations.

You can join or blend your data set with the template to create your own visualization. Here is mine where I’m showing the state wise percentage of computers and playgrounds in Indian schools.

Below is the interactive Tableau visualization. Hover over the hexagons to see the state names.

Thanks for reading!

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Last modified: November 14, 2017

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