# Beautiful thematic maps with ggplot2 (only)

Important update (2019-04-19): This blog post still attracts dozens of readers each day – which is great! However, the methodology is now outdated. Please read my new blog post on producing such (and other) maps with even easier methods.

# Beautiful thematic maps with ggplot2 (only)

The above choropleth was created with ggplot2 (2.2.0) only. Well, almost. Of course, you need the usual suspects such as rgdal and rgeos when dealing with geodata, and raster for the relief. But apart from that: nothing fancy such as ggmap or the like. The imported packages are kept to an absolute minimum.

In this blog post, I am going to explain step by step how I (eventually) achieved this result – from a very basic, useless, ugly, default map to the publication-ready and (in my opinion) highly aesthetic choropleth.

## Reproducibility

As always, you can reproduce, reuse and remix everything you find here, just go to this repository and clone it. All the needed input files are in the input folder, and the main file to execute is index.Rmd. Right now, knitting it produces an index.md that I use for my blog post on timogrossenbacher.ch, but you can adapt the script to produce an HTML file, too. The PNGs produced herein are saved to wp-content/uploads/2016/12 so I can display them directly in my blog, but of course you can also adjust this.

## Preparations

### Clear workspace and install necessary packages

This is just my usual routine: Detach all packages, remove all variables in the global environment, etc, and then load the packages. Saves me a lot of headaches.

knitr::opts_chunk$set( out.width = "100%", dpi = 300, fig.width = 8, fig.height = 6, fig.path = 'https://timogrossenbacher.ch/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/tm-', strip.white = T, dev = "png", dev.args = list(png = list(bg = "transparent")) ) remove(list = ls(all.names = TRUE)) detachAllPackages <- function() { basic.packages.blank <- c("stats", "graphics", "grDevices", "utils", "datasets", "methods", "base") basic.packages <- paste("package:", basic.packages.blank, sep = "") package.list <- search()[ifelse(unlist(gregexpr("package:", search())) == 1, TRUE, FALSE)] package.list <- setdiff(package.list, basic.packages) if (length(package.list) > 0) for (package in package.list) { detach(package, character.only = TRUE) print(paste("package ", package, " detached", sep = "")) } } detachAllPackages() if (!require(rgeos)) { install.packages("rgeos", repos = "http://cran.us.r-project.org") require(rgeos) } if (!require(rgdal)) { install.packages("rgdal", repos = "http://cran.us.r-project.org") require(rgdal) } if (!require(raster)) { install.packages("raster", repos = "http://cran.us.r-project.org") require(raster) } if(!require(ggplot2)) { install.packages("ggplot2", repos="http://cloud.r-project.org") require(ggplot2) } if(!require(viridis)) { install.packages("viridis", repos="http://cloud.r-project.org") require(viridis) } if(!require(dplyr)) { install.packages("dplyr", repos = "https://cloud.r-project.org/") require(dplyr) } if(!require(gtable)) { install.packages("gtable", repos = "https://cloud.r-project.org/") require(gtable) } if(!require(grid)) { install.packages("grid", repos = "https://cloud.r-project.org/") require(grid) } if(!require(readxl)) { install.packages("readxl", repos = "https://cloud.r-project.org/") require(readxl) } if(!require(magrittr)) { install.packages("magrittr", repos = "https://cloud.r-project.org/") require(magrittr) }  ### General ggplot2 theme for map First of all, I define a generic theme that will be used as the basis for all of the following steps. It's based on theme_minimal and basically resets all the axes. It also defined a very subtle grid and a warmgrey background, which gives it some sort of paper map feeling, I find. The font used here is Ubuntu Regular – adapt to your liking, but the font must be installed on your OS. theme_map <- function(...) { theme_minimal() + theme( text = element_text(family = "Ubuntu Regular", color = "#22211d"), axis.line = element_blank(), axis.text.x = element_blank(), axis.text.y = element_blank(), axis.ticks = element_blank(), axis.title.x = element_blank(), axis.title.y = element_blank(), # panel.grid.minor = element_line(color = "#ebebe5", size = 0.2), panel.grid.major = element_line(color = "#ebebe5", size = 0.2), panel.grid.minor = element_blank(), plot.background = element_rect(fill = "#f5f5f2", color = NA), panel.background = element_rect(fill = "#f5f5f2", color = NA), legend.background = element_rect(fill = "#f5f5f2", color = NA), panel.border = element_blank(), ... ) }  ## Data sources For this choropleth, I used three data sources: • Thematic data: Average age per municipality as of end of 2015. The data is freely available from The Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO) and included in the input folder. • Municipality geometries: The geometries do not show the political borders of Swiss municipalities, but the so-called "productive" area, i.e., larger lakes and other "unproductive" areas such as mountains are excluded. This has two advantages: 1) The relatively sparsely populated but very large municipalities in the Alps don't have too much visual weight and 2) it allows us to use the beautiful raster relief of the Alps as a background. The data are also from the FSO, but not freely available. You could also use the freely available political boundaries of course. I was allowed to republish the Shapefile for this educational purpose (also included in the input folder). Please stick to that policy. • Relief: This is a freely available GeoTIFF from The Swiss Federal Office of Topography (swisstopo). ### Read in data and preprocess data <- read.csv("input/avg_age_15.csv", stringsAsFactors = F)  ### Read in geodata Here, the geodata is loaded using rgeos / rgdal standard procedures. It is then "fortified", i.e. transformed into a ggplot2-compatible data frame (the fortify-function is part of ggplot2). Also, the thematic data is joined using the bfs_id field (each municipality has a unique one). gde_15 <- readOGR("input/geodata/gde-1-1-15.shp", layer = "gde-1-1-15")  ## OGR data source with driver: ESRI Shapefile ## Source: "input/geodata/gde-1-1-15.shp", layer: "gde-1-1-15" ## with 2324 features ## It has 2 fields # set crs to ch1903/lv03, just to make sure (EPSG:21781) crs(gde_15) <- "+proj=somerc +lat_0=46.95240555555556 +lon_0=7.439583333333333 +k_0=1 +x_0=600000 +y_0=200000 +ellps=bessel +towgs84=674.374,15.056,405.346,0,0,0,0 +units=m +no_defs" # fortify, i.e., make ggplot2-compatible map_data_fortified <- fortify(gde_15, region = "BFS_ID") %>% mutate(id = as.numeric(id)) # now we join the thematic data map_data <- map_data_fortified %>% left_join(data, by = c("id" = "bfs_id")) # whole municipalities gde_15_political <- readOGR("input/geodata/g1g15.shp", layer = "g1g15")  ## OGR data source with driver: ESRI Shapefile ## Source: "input/geodata/g1g15.shp", layer: "g1g15" ## with 2328 features ## It has 20 fields crs(gde_15_political) <- "+proj=somerc +lat_0=46.95240555555556 +lon_0=7.439583333333333 +k_0=1 +x_0=600000 +y_0=200000 +ellps=bessel +towgs84=674.374,15.056,405.346,0,0,0,0 +units=m +no_defs" map_data_political_fortified <- fortify(gde_15_political, region = "GMDNR") %>% mutate(id = as.numeric(id)) map_data_political <- map_data_political_fortified %>% left_join(data, by = c("id" = "bfs_id")) map_data_political <- map_data_political[complete.cases(map_data_political),] # read in background relief relief <- raster("input/geodata/02-relief-georef-clipped-resampled.tif") relief_spdf <- as(relief, "SpatialPixelsDataFrame") # relief is converted to a very simple data frame, # just as the fortified municipalities. # for that we need to convert it to a # SpatialPixelsDataFrame first, and then extract its contents # using as.data.frame relief <- as.data.frame(relief_spdf) %>% rename(value = X02.relief.georef.clipped.resampled) # remove unnecessary variables rm(relief_spdf) rm(gde_15) rm(map_data_fortified) rm(map_data_political_fortified)  ## A very basic map What follows now is a very basic map with the municipalities rendered with geom_polygon and their outline with geom_path. I don't even define a color scale here, it just uses ggplot2's default continuous color scale, because avg_age_15 is a continuous variable. Because the geodata are in a projected format, it is important to use coord_equal() here, if not, Switzerland would be distorted. p <- ggplot() + # municipality polygons geom_polygon(data = map_data, aes(fill = avg_age_15, x = long, y = lat, group = group)) + # municipality outline geom_path(data = map_data, aes(x = long, y = lat, group = group), color = "white", size = 0.1) + coord_equal() + # add the previously defined basic theme theme_map() + labs(x = NULL, y = NULL, title = "Switzerland's regional demographics", subtitle = "Average age in Swiss municipalities, 2015", caption = "Geometries: ThemaKart, BFS; Data: BFS, 2016") p  How ugly! The color scale is not very sensitive to the data at hand, i.e., regional patterns cannot be detected at all. ### A better color scale See how I reuse the previously defined p-object and just add the continuous viridis scale from the same named package. All of a sudden the map looks more aesthetic and regional patterns are already visible in this linear scale. For example one can see that the municipalities in the south and in the Alps (where there are a lot of gaps, the unproductive areas I talked about) seem to have an older-than-average population (mainly because young people move to the cities for work etc.). q <- p + scale_fill_viridis(option = "magma", direction = -1) q  ### Horizontal legend Also I think one could save some space by using a horizontal legend at the bottom of the plot. q <- p + # this is the main part theme(legend.position = "bottom") + scale_fill_viridis( option = "magma", direction = -1, name = "Average age", # here we use guide_colourbar because it is still a continuous scale guide = guide_colorbar( direction = "horizontal", barheight = unit(2, units = "mm"), barwidth = unit(50, units = "mm"), draw.ulim = F, title.position = 'top', # some shifting around title.hjust = 0.5, label.hjust = 0.5 )) q  Well, the plot now has a weird aspect ratio, but okay... ## Discrete classes with quantile scale I am still not happy with the color scale because I think regional patterns could be made more clearly visible. For that I break up the continuous avg_age_15 variable into 6 quantiles (remember your statistics class?). The effect of that is that I now have about the same number of municipalities in each class. no_classes <- 6 labels <- c() quantiles <- quantile(map_data$avg_age_15,
probs = seq(0, 1, length.out = no_classes + 1))

# here I define custom labels (the default ones would be ugly)
labels <- c()
for(idx in 1:length(quantiles)){
labels <- c(labels, paste0(round(quantiles[idx], 2),
" – ",
round(quantiles[idx + 1], 2)))
}
# I need to remove the last label
# because that would be something like "66.62 - NA"
labels <- labels[1:length(labels)-1]

# here I actually create a new
# variable on the dataset with the quantiles
map_data$avg_age_15_quantiles <- cut(map_data$avg_age_15,
breaks = quantiles,
labels = labels,
include.lowest = T)

p <- ggplot() +
# municipality polygons (watch how I
# use the new variable for the fill aesthetic)
geom_polygon(data = map_data, aes(fill = avg_age_15_quantiles,
x = long,
y = lat,
group = group)) +
# municipality outline
geom_path(data = map_data, aes(x = long,
y = lat,
group = group),
color = "white", size = 0.1) +
coord_equal() +
theme_map() +
labs(x = NULL,
y = NULL,
title = "Switzerland's regional demographics",
subtitle = "Average age in Swiss municipalities, 2015",
caption = "Geometries: ThemaKart, BFS; Data: BFS, 2016") +
# now the discrete-option is used,
# and we use guide_legend instead of guide_colourbar
scale_fill_viridis(
option = "magma",
name = "Average age",
discrete = T,
direction = -1,
guide = guide_legend(
keyheight = unit(5, units = "mm"),
title.position = 'top',
reverse = T
))
p


Wow! Now that is some regional variability ;-). But there is still a huge caveat: In my opinion, quantile scales are optimal at showing intra-dataset-variability, but sometimes this variability can be exaggerated. Most of the municipalities here are in the region between 39 and 43 years. The second caveat is that the legend looks somehow ugly with all these decimals, and that people are probably having problems interpreting such differently sized classes. That's why I am trying "pretty breaks" in the next step, and this is basically also what you see in almost all choropleths used for (data-)journalistic purposes.

### Discrete classes with pretty breaks

# here I define equally spaced pretty breaks -
# they will be surrounded by the minimum value at
# the beginning and the maximum value at the end.
# One could also use something like c(39,39.5,41,42.5,43),
# this totally depends on the data and your personal taste.
pretty_breaks <- c(39,40,41,42,43)
# find the extremes
minVal <- min(map_data$avg_age_15, na.rm = T) maxVal <- max(map_data$avg_age_15, na.rm = T)
# compute labels
labels <- c()
brks <- c(minVal, pretty_breaks, maxVal)
# round the labels (actually, only the extremes)
for(idx in 1:length(brks)){
labels <- c(labels,round(brks[idx + 1], 2))
}

labels <- labels[1:length(labels)-1]
# define a new variable on the data set just as above
map_data$brks <- cut(map_data$avg_age_15,
breaks = brks,
include.lowest = TRUE,
labels = labels)

brks_scale <- levels(map_data$brks) labels_scale <- rev(brks_scale) p <- ggplot() + # municipality polygons geom_polygon(data = map_data, aes(fill = brks, x = long, y = lat, group = group)) + # municipality outline geom_path(data = map_data, aes(x = long, y = lat, group = group), color = "white", size = 0.1) + coord_equal() + theme_map() + theme(legend.position = "bottom") + labs(x = NULL, y = NULL, title = "Switzerland's regional demographics", subtitle = "Average age in Swiss municipalities, 2015", caption = "Geometries: ThemaKart, BFS; Data: BFS, 2016") q <- p + # now we have to use a manual scale, # because only ever one number should be shown per label scale_fill_manual( # in manual scales, one has to define colors, well, manually # I can directly access them using viridis' magma-function values = rev(magma(6)), breaks = rev(brks_scale), name = "Average age", drop = FALSE, labels = labels_scale, guide = guide_legend( direction = "horizontal", keyheight = unit(2, units = "mm"), keywidth = unit(70 / length(labels), units = "mm"), title.position = 'top', # I shift the labels around, the should be placed # exactly at the right end of each legend key title.hjust = 0.5, label.hjust = 1, nrow = 1, byrow = T, # also the guide needs to be reversed reverse = T, label.position = "bottom" ) ) q  Now we have classes with the ranges 33.06 to 39, 39 to 40, 40 to 41, and so on... So four classes are of the same size and the two classes with the extremes are differently sized. One option to communicate this is to make their respective legend keys wider than usual. ggplot2 doesn't have a standard option for that, so I had to dig deep into the underlying grid package and extract the relevant grobs and change their widths. All of the following numbers are the result of trying and trying around. I have not yet fully understood how that system actually works and certainly, it could be made more versatile. Something for next christmas... ### More intuitive legend extendLegendWithExtremes <- function(p){ p_grob <- ggplotGrob(p) legend <- gtable_filter(p_grob, "guide-box") legend_grobs <- legend$grobs[[1]]$grobs[[1]] # grab the first key of legend legend_first_key <- gtable_filter(legend_grobs, "key-3-1-1") legend_first_key$widths <- unit(2, units = "cm")
# modify its width and x properties to make it longer
legend_first_key$grobs[[1]]$width <- unit(2, units = "cm")
legend_first_key$grobs[[1]]$x <- unit(0.15, units = "cm")

# last key of legend
legend_last_key <- gtable_filter(legend_grobs, "key-3-6-1")
legend_last_key$widths <- unit(2, units = "cm") # analogous legend_last_key$grobs[[1]]$width <- unit(2, units = "cm") legend_last_key$grobs[[1]]$x <- unit(1.02, units = "cm") # grab the last label so we can also shift its position legend_last_label <- gtable_filter(legend_grobs, "label-5-6") legend_last_label$grobs[[1]]$x <- unit(2, units = "cm") # Insert new color legend back into the combined legend legend_grobs$grobs[legend_grobs$layout$name == "key-3-1-1"][[1]] <-
legend_first_key$grobs[[1]] legend_grobs$grobs[legend_grobs$layout$name == "key-3-6-1"][[1]] <-
legend_last_key$grobs[[1]] legend_grobs$grobs[legend_grobs$layout$name == "label-5-6"][[1]] <-
legend_last_label$grobs[[1]] # finally, I need to create a new label for the minimum value new_first_label <- legend_last_label$grobs[[1]]
new_first_label$label <- round(min(map_data$avg_age_15, na.rm = T), 2)
new_first_label$x <- unit(-0.15, units = "cm") new_first_label$hjust <- 1

new_first_label,
t = 6,
l = 2,
name = "label-5-0",
clip = "off")
legend$grobs[[1]]$grobs[1][[1]] <- legend_grobs
p_grob$grobs[p_grob$layoutname == "guide-box"][[1]] <- legend # the plot is now drawn using this grid function grid.newpage() grid.draw(p_grob) } extendLegendWithExtremes(q)  ### Better colors for classes Almost perfect. What I still don't like is the very bright yellow color of the first class. It makes it difficult to see the borders of the municipalities with that color. Also I find the color of the last class a bit too dark. That's why I now use the magma function with 8 classes and strip of the first and last class. p <- p + scale_fill_manual( # magma with 8 classes values = rev(magma(8)[2:7]), breaks = rev(brks_scale), name = "Average age", drop = FALSE, labels = labels_scale, guide = guide_legend( direction = "horizontal", keyheight = unit(2, units = "mm"), keywidth = unit(70/length(labels), units = "mm"), title.position = 'top', title.hjust = 0.5, label.hjust = 1, nrow = 1, byrow = T, reverse = T, label.position = "bottom" ) ) # reapply the legend modification from above extendLegendWithExtremes(p)  A beauty! ## Relief What's needed now to give it a boost of aesthetic value is the relief of the Swiss Alps. Every mountain lover will appreciate that. I add the relief with geom_raster. Now the problem is that I can't use the fill aesthetic because it (or its scale) is already in use by the geom_polygon layer. The workaround is using the alpha aesthetic which works fine here because the relief should be displayed with a greyscale anyway. p <- ggplot() + # raster comes as the first layer, municipalities on top geom_raster(data = relief, aes(x = x, y = y, alpha = value)) + # use the "alpha hack" scale_alpha(name = "", range = c(0.6, 0), guide = F) + # municipality polygons geom_polygon(data = map_data, aes(fill = brks, x = long, y = lat, group = group)) + # municipality outline geom_path(data = map_data, aes(x = long, y = lat, group = group), color = "white", size = 0.1) + # apart from that, nothing changes coord_equal() + theme_map() + theme(legend.position = "bottom") + labs(x = NULL, y = NULL, title = "Switzerland's regional demographics", subtitle = "Average age in Swiss municipalities, 2015", caption = "Geometries: ThemaKart, BFS; Data: BFS, 2016; Relief: swisstopo, 2016") + scale_fill_manual( values = rev(magma(8)[2:7]), breaks = rev(brks_scale), name = "Average age", drop = FALSE, labels = labels_scale, guide = guide_legend( direction = "horizontal", keyheight = unit(2, units = "mm"), keywidth = unit(70/length(labels), units = "mm"), title.position = 'top', title.hjust = 0.5, label.hjust = 1, nrow = 1, byrow = T, reverse = T, label.position = "bottom" ) ) extendLegendWithExtremes(p)  ## Final map What follows are a couple of adjustments concerning: • font colors • the position of the title • the plot margins, i.e.: how to make better use of the available space and show the map as big as possible • smaller and less prominent caption at the bottom Most of that happens in the additional theme specifications. Again, this is just tediously trying out values after values after values... To my great joy I also discovered that there is an alpha argument to the magma function, which gives the colors a certain pastel tone and make the map look even more geo-hipsterish (if you ask me). p <- ggplot() + # municipality polygons geom_raster(data = relief, aes_string(x = "x", y = "y", alpha = "value")) + scale_alpha(name = "", range = c(0.6, 0), guide = F) + geom_polygon(data = map_data, aes(fill = brks, x = long, y = lat, group = group)) + # municipality outline geom_path(data = map_data, aes(x = long, y = lat, group = group), color = "white", size = 0.1) + coord_equal() + theme_map() + theme( legend.position = c(0.5, 0.03), legend.text.align = 0, legend.background = element_rect(fill = alpha('white', 0.0)), legend.text = element_text(size = 7, hjust = 0, color = "#4e4d47"), plot.title = element_text(hjust = 0.5, color = "#4e4d47"), plot.subtitle = element_text(hjust = 0.5, color = "#4e4d47", margin = margin(b = -0.1, t = -0.1, l = 2, unit = "cm"), debug = F), legend.title = element_text(size = 8), plot.margin = unit(c(.5,.5,.2,.5), "cm"), panel.spacing = unit(c(-.1,0.2,.2,0.2), "cm"), panel.border = element_blank(), plot.caption = element_text(size = 6, hjust = 0.92, margin = margin(t = 0.2, b = 0, unit = "cm"), color = "#939184") ) + labs(x = NULL, y = NULL, title = "Switzerland's regional demographics", subtitle = "Average age in Swiss municipalities, 2015", caption = "Map CC-BY-SA; Author: Timo Grossenbacher (@grssnbchr), Geometries: ThemaKart, BFS; Data: BFS, 2016; Relief: swisstopo, 2016") + scale_fill_manual( values = rev(magma(8, alpha = 0.8)[2:7]), breaks = rev(brks_scale), name = "Average age", drop = FALSE, labels = labels_scale, guide = guide_legend( direction = "horizontal", keyheight = unit(2, units = "mm"), keywidth = unit(70/length(labels), units = "mm"), title.position = 'top', title.hjust = 0.5, label.hjust = 1, nrow = 1, byrow = T, reverse = T, label.position = "bottom" ) ) extendLegendWithExtremes(p)  Thanks for reading, I hope you learned something. Producing high-quality graphics like these with pure ggplot2 is sometimes more an art than a science and veeeeeeeryyyyy tedious, and it would probably be way easier to export the map at an early stage and make adjustments in Illustrator or another vector editor. But then, I just like the thought of a fully automagic, reproducible workflow, it's almost an obsession. The big challenge here is to put everything into a more versatile function, or even a package, that can produce maps like these with arbitrary scales (discrete, continuous, quantiles, pretty breaks, whatever) and arbitrary geo data (for the US, for example). If you think this example can be improved in any way, please use the comment function below. I'd also be very happy to see this map adapted to other geographic regions and/or other datasets. As always: Follow me on Twitter! ## Update, January 2nd, 2017 This blog post has gone quite through the roof. For example, it was featured on the Revolution Analytics blog. One guy even printed the map and hung it on the wall! I have also received a lot of constructive feedback in the meantime. I especially appreciated the discussions on the RStats Subreddit, particularly the one about the legend / color scale. Based on that discussion I decided to make a slightly altered version of the color scale so one can compare the visual effect. # same code as above but different breaks pretty_breaks <- c(40,42,44,46,48) # find the extremes minVal <- min(map_dataavg_age_15, na.rm = T)
maxVal <- max(map_data$avg_age_15, na.rm = T) # compute labels labels <- c() brks <- c(minVal, pretty_breaks, maxVal) # round the labels (actually, only the extremes) for(idx in 1:length(brks)){ labels <- c(labels,round(brks[idx + 1], 2)) } labels <- labels[1:length(labels)-1] # define a new variable on the data set just as above map_data$brks <- cut(map_data$avg_age_15, breaks = brks, include.lowest = TRUE, labels = labels) brks_scale <- levels(map_data$brks)
labels_scale <- rev(brks_scale)

p <- ggplot() +
# municipality polygons
geom_raster(data = relief, aes_string(x = "x",
y = "y",
alpha = "value")) +
scale_alpha(name = "", range = c(0.6, 0), guide = F)  +
geom_polygon(data = map_data, aes(fill = brks,
x = long,
y = lat,
group = group)) +
# municipality outline
geom_path(data = map_data, aes(x = long,
y = lat,
group = group),
color = "white", size = 0.1) +
coord_equal() +
theme_map() +
theme(
legend.position = c(0.5, 0.03),
legend.text.align = 0,
legend.background = element_rect(fill = alpha('white', 0.0)),
legend.text = element_text(size = 7, hjust = 0, color = "#4e4d47"),
plot.title = element_text(hjust = 0.5, color = "#4e4d47"),
plot.subtitle = element_text(hjust = 0.5, color = "#4e4d47",
margin = margin(b = -0.1,
t = -0.1,
l = 2,
unit = "cm"),
debug = F),
legend.title = element_text(size = 8),
plot.margin = unit(c(.5,.5,.2,.5), "cm"),
panel.spacing = unit(c(-.1,0.2,.2,0.2), "cm"),
panel.border = element_blank(),
plot.caption = element_text(size = 6,
hjust = 0.92,
margin = margin(t = 0.2,
b = 0,
unit = "cm"),
color = "#939184")
) +
labs(x = NULL,
y = NULL,
title = "Switzerland's regional demographics",
subtitle = "Average age in Swiss municipalities, 2015",
caption = "Map CC-BY-SA; Author: Timo Grossenbacher (@grssnbchr), Geometries: ThemaKart, BFS; Data: BFS, 2016; Relief: swisstopo, 2016") +
scale_fill_manual(
values = rev(magma(8, alpha = 0.8)[2:7]),
breaks = rev(brks_scale),
name = "Average age",
drop = FALSE,
labels = labels_scale,
guide = guide_legend(
direction = "horizontal",
keyheight = unit(2, units = "mm"),
keywidth = unit(70/length(labels), units = "mm"),
title.position = 'top',
title.hjust = 0.5,
label.hjust = 1,
nrow = 1,
byrow = T,
reverse = T,
label.position = "bottom"
)
)
extendLegendWithExtremes(p)


Notice that I extended the range of the first class from 33.06-39 to 33.06-40 and that, now, the classes in the "middle" have a range of two years rather than one year. This has the advantage that both "extreme" classes' ranges are now a bit more similar, but of course, the first is still a lot smaller than the last. I would say the disadvantage of this approach is that now some "visual balance" between both extremes is lost, mostly due to the fact that a lot of municipalities have an average age below 40 years. However, it has the other advantage that the really "old" municipalities at the far-right of the scale can now be more easily identified.

At this point, it might make sense to look at the histogram of the municipalities:

ggplot(data = data, aes(x = avg_age_15)) +
geom_histogram(binwidth = 0.5) +
theme_minimal() +
xlab("Average age in Swiss municipality, 2015") +
ylab("Count")


As you can see, the municipalities are almost normally distributed, with most municipalities being in the range between 39 and 43 years (>75%, look at the quantiles computation below). From that perspective, the first class configuration might still be "closer" to the data.

quantile(data$avg_age_15)  ## 0% 25% 50% 75% 100% ## 33.05566 39.99845 41.65980 43.37581 66.61538 But what do I know. No, really: This is a very difficult problem. The choice of a certain color scale greatly alters the visual perception of the underlying spatial patterns. I remember from my Geography studies that there are guidelines on how to handle this (anyone got a good link, by the way?), but there is no wrong or right. It'd be nice if you posted your opinion about that in the comments! One last note: Some people seem to have had problems with the maptools package. In case you're wondering, here is the setup I used to run the script in the first place: R version 3.3.1 (2016-06-21) Platform: x86_64-pc-linux-gnu (64-bit) Running under: Ubuntu 16.04.1 LTS locale: [1] LC_CTYPE=en_US.UTF-8 LC_NUMERIC=C LC_TIME=de_CH.UTF-8 LC_COLLATE=en_US.UTF-8 [5] LC_MONETARY=de_CH.UTF-8 LC_MESSAGES=en_US.UTF-8 LC_PAPER=de_CH.UTF-8 LC_NAME=C [9] LC_ADDRESS=C LC_TELEPHONE=C LC_MEASUREMENT=de_CH.UTF-8 LC_IDENTIFICATION=C attached base packages: [1] grid stats graphics grDevices utils datasets methods base other attached packages: [1] gtable_0.2.0 dplyr_0.5.0 viridis_0.3.4 ggplot2_2.2.0 raster_2.5-8 rgdal_1.1-10 sp_1.2-3 rgeos_0.3-21 loaded via a namespace (and not attached): [1] Rcpp_0.12.7 knitr_1.14 magrittr_1.5 maptools_0.8-40 munsell_0.4.3 colorspace_1.2-6 lattice_0.20-34 [8] R6_2.1.3 plyr_1.8.4 tools_3.3.1 DBI_0.5-1 digest_0.6.10 lazyeval_0.2.0 assertthat_0.1 [15] tibble_1.2 gridExtra_2.2.1 formatR_1.4 labeling_0.3 scales_0.4.1 foreign_0.8-66  ## Data in a barchart rgs <- read_excel("input/be-b-00.04-rgs-15.xls", skip = 16, col_names = F) %>% select(bfs_id = X__1, NAME = X__2) data_sorted <- data %>% left_join(rgs) %>% arrange(desc(avg_age_15))  ## Joining, by = "bfs_id" data_to_plot <- data %>% left_join(rgs)  ## Joining, by = "bfs_id" data_to_plot %<>% mutate(NAME = factor(NAME, levels = data_sorted$NAME))

p <- ggplot(data_to_plot, aes(y = avg_age_15, x = NAME)) +
geom_bar(stat = "identity") +
labs(x = "Gemeinde", y = "Durchschnittsalter 2015") +
theme_minimal() +
theme(axis.text = element_text(size = 7))+
xlim(data_sorted[2315:2324,]\$NAME) +
ylim(c(0,70)) +
theme(axis.text.x = element_text(angle = 60, hjust = 1))

ggsave(p, filename = "output/unteres_extrem.png", width = 8, height = 3)

## Warning: Removed 2314 rows containing missing values (position_stack).