About a month ago I was interviewed by Ben Blatt of Slate about some really “bad” viral maps that have been making the rounds. These maps take the individual states of the US and associate them with random things like leading hair dye sales. There is nothing new about these maps; they have been around for decades. The only difference is that they are now often more poorly visualized, distributed far more widely than they would have been in print, and often associate states with really trivial things. They are “bad” from a design and information perspective, but “good” when one thinks about the breadth of their distribution and entertainment value.
At any rate, he recently published his article. It is an enjoyable and quick read and has a really cool potpourri of mundane state comparison maps at the end. Check out the article and interactive map here.
If this topic turns your crank, Marty Elmer of MapHugger.com has been researching this topic most thoroughly and convincingly. Check out his blog or online presentations for some pretty detailed hypotheses of why these maps go viral.