Which design better uses space and is more appealing? I'm new to this community so please if this is the wrong place to ask this type of question direct me to the correct one. Thanks.
I much prefer design 1
It's got great use of white space and gives priority to the information. It also shows the shape of the map in a much more subtle way, 'there but not there'. In the second design the type seems a little squashed into a shape that takes priority, that is by comparison to design 1 which is very fluid (literally) it seems to have a 'watery' flow to it as it is not confined, which I think further enforces your information, it's really nice!
It brings this image to mind;