Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Symbol Map


Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Symbol Map

Not everyone is a Tableau guru, at least not yet. To help Tableau rookies, we’re starting from square one with the Tableau Essentials blog series. The series is intended to be an easy-to-read reference on the basics of using Tableau Software, particularly Tableau Desktop. Since there are so many cool features to cover in Tableau, the series will include several different posts.

One of the great features about Tableau Software is the ease in utilizing maps for your visualizations. There are two chart types to choose from when creating a view with geographic data: symbol maps and filled maps. In this article, we’ll cover symbol maps. These are simply maps that use a type of mark to represent a data point, such as a filled circle.

Note: Tableau 8.1 was used to create the map images in this blog post. For more on changes to maps in Tableau 8.2, see our post here.

Before we get started, in the upper left-hand corner of the map is a navigation tool:

Nav tool

This tool has four controls. They are (starting from top to bottom): zoom in, zoom out, zoom into a selected area using a click-and-drag and reset map. For a more controlled zoom in and zoom out, hold CTRL and scroll with your mouse wheel. These controls will help you and your report viewers navigate around your view, particularly if you’ve got a lot of detail spread across the globe. To pan across your map, hold SHIFT and left-click drag your mouse across your screen.

Example: Where Do World Cup Players Play Club Soccer?

For our symbol map example, we’ve created a database of all of the players from the 2014 FIFA World Cup – the world’s greatest sporting spectacle. The final tournament features 32 national teams from around the world. So, where do these national team players, presumably among the very best in the world, play their club soccer?

Symbol map.

Figure 1: Symbol map.

The larger the circle, the larger the player count. To avoid the clutter of labels in such a densely-marked area such as Europe, we’ve added the symbol map to a dashboard. This dashboard has a text table summing up the top 10 countries at the top along with a positional filter (defense, midfielder, attacker and goalkeeper). If you follow international soccer, it’s no surprise that England (119), Italy (81), Germany (78) and Spain (64) are tops. Out of the top 20 most valuable soccer clubs in the world, 19 of them belong to these four leagues. Show me the money!

The closer we zoom in, the more geographic detail Tableau will provide on our map. Let’s focus on Western Europe, where the majority of players make their money.

Continental zoom

Figure 2: Continental zoom.

With this closer view, you can now see the sub-region divisions within each country. In fact, you can get a lot closer. Let’s break out each country’s clubs into cities and see what happens when we do that for the 122 club players in the UK.

Country zoom

Figure 3: Country zoom.

The density of World Cup players’ club locations in the UK is led by London (36), with Manchester (24) and Liverpool (16) following closely behind. Those are the homes of the top clubs in the UK – Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, etc. You can see that Tableau can give a great degree of geographic specificity to your data.

You can go even deeper:

City zoom

Figure 4: City zoom.

Above is the city of London with the River Thames running right through the middle of the map. The dark grey patches are gardens, parks and reserves within the city. You could add more detail to this map by selecting the Map menu and exploring the Map Options panel.

Map visualizations are one of the truly innovative features of Tableau Software. With the standard level of automation and intuitive controls, you can add genuine business insight with stunning views. 

Other Chart Types

Here is the complete list of chart types from the Show Me menu. Be sure to check back often as we continue to release new articles in each chart type in this sub-series.


  1. Text Table (Crosstab)
  2. Heat Map
  3. Highlight Table
  4. Symbol Map
  5. Filled Map
  6. Pie Chart
  7. Horizontal Bar Chart
  8. Stacked Bar Chart
  9. Side-by-Side Bars
  10. Treemap
  11. Circle Views
  12. Side-by-Side Circle Views
  13. Lines (continuous & discrete)
  14. Dual Lines
  15. Area Charts (continuous & discrete)
  16. Line Chart Extra
  17. Dual Combination
  18. Scatter Plot
  19. Histogram
  20. Box-and-Whisker Plot
  21. Gantt
  22. Bullet Graphs
  23. Packed Bubbles

More Tableau Essentials

Want to learn more about Tableau? We have several posts outlining all of Tableau’s fantastic features. Check out the full list on our Tableau Essentials blog channel.

As always, let us know if you have any questions or comments about this post or Tableau in general. If you’re looking for personalized training or help with something bigger, contact us directly!

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Want More Tableau Essentials

  1. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Introduction
  2. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – The Text Table
  3. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Heat Map
  4. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Highlight Table
  5. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Symbol Map
  6. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Filled Map
  7. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Pie Chart
  8. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Horizontal Bar Chart
  9. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Stacked Bar Chart
  10. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Side-by-Side Bar Chart
  11. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Treemap
  12. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Circle View
  13. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Side-by-Side Circle View
  14. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Line Charts (Continuous & Discrete)
  15. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Dual-Line Chart (Non-Synchronized)
  16. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Area Charts (Continuous & Discrete)
  17. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Scatter Plot
  18. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Histogram
  19. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Box-and-Whisker Plot
  20. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Gantt Chart
  21. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Bullet Graph
  22. Tableau Essentials: Chart Types – Packed Bubbles
  23. Tableau Essentials: Formatting Tips – Introduction
  24. Tableau Essentials: Formatting Tips – Custom Shapes
  25. Tableau Essentials: Formatting Tips – Labels
  26. Tableau Essentials: Formatting Tips – Color
  27. Tableau Essentials: Formatting Tips – Tooltips
  28. Tableau Essentials: Formatting Tips – Maps
  29. Tableau Essentials: Calculated Fields – Introduction
  30. Tableau Essentials: Calculated Fields – Logical Functions
  31. Tableau Essentials: Calculated Fields – Number Functions
  32. Tableau Essentials: Calculated Fields – Date Functions
  33. Tableau Essentials: Calculated Fields – String Functions
  34. Tableau Essentials: Calculated Fields – Type Conversion
  35. Tableau Essentials: Calculated Fields – Aggregate Functions
  36. Tableau Essentials: Calculated Fields – User Functions

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