Large network diagrams and themtic maps can quickly become confusing, particularly when the number of interconnections between single elements is high. Applied to networks, relation circles are useful to analyze such complex structures in terms of connectivity rather than spatial orientation. The amount and distribution of connections between items is the relevant information that needs to be visualized, while the spatial distribution or location of nodes doesn’t play a significant role. As the example on the previous page demonstrates, the display of extremely large sets with heavy interconnection among its elements in a radial structure doesn’t focus on the characteristics of single items but provides insight into the global nature of a link structure: Distinguishing brighter areas from dark “spikes”, the reader can instantly identify nodes or node areas of lower or higher connectivity.
In the context of thematic mapping, relation circles help to separate description and location of a data element, which can significantly improve the readability of maps that contain large number of items. Through the alignment of labels and descriptions on the radial frame, they allow to display two different order principles simultaneously.