Whether making a wall-sized map or a small map for a report or web page. The following guidelines should be followed.
Answer these questions as you refine the elements that constitute your map:
- Who is your audience?
- What is the map's intended purpose?
After creating your map, ask yourself these questions:
- What do you see FIRST when you look at my map?
- What do you see second, third, fourth, etc.? (Think about a desired hierarchy for the map elements)
- Does the map fill the layout?
- Is there overall balance?
- Are the basic graphic elements & lettering clear and legible?
- Can I use the visual variables to enhance contrast between classes of symbols or legend categories? (Think about using more than one visual variable together)
- Is the map projection appropriate for this region?
- Are large polygons (or background) filled with extremely dark/saturated colors?
Before turning in any map:
- Have someone else review the map
Keep visual hierarchy in mind when designing your layout (i.e., the most important things in your map should be the most prominent things in your map). Your map layout should be well balanced and make good use of space, including white (empty) space. Align the content of your map along imaginary lines.
Remember to give your map some structure. In other words, since Humboldt County is not an island, the coast line should extend beyond Humboldt County and the land around the county should be a different color from the ocean.
- All text on a map should be clear and legible. The font size should typically be 8 point or greater. Fonts should never be below 6 point. Fonts on posters should be larger because the viewing distance is greater.
- Text should never be "cut-off" on the edges of the map or run under other features.
- Use halos behind text to make it stand out on complex backgrounds.
- Check your spelling
- Avoid overlapping text with other lines in the map, other map elements, or with each other.
- Never include underscores in ANY text
- Include descriptive text if necessary to clarify what your map is trying to communicate unless the map is in a report or article where the associated text describes the contents of the map.
- Reserver italics for water features. Do not over-use other embelishments (bold, underline). On web pages, only underline hyperlinks.
- Use contrasting colors for features that are different and next to each other(i.e. states should have different colors from the states next to them).
- Typically, you'll want the colors of the background of a map to be pastels (light colors) and the foreground items to be more intense.
- Use appropriate colors for the feature type:
- Water should be blue (typically, light blue)
- Land should be beige or green unless colorized to show different features such as states.
Neat lines help to delineate a map on a page and should be included with most maps. However, it is often difficult to have a GIS application handle them correctly so you may have to add them in the application you are using to create the final product.
To make nice neat lines, either add them as a rectangle in the GIS application or as a border around the map in the final layout application.
Common map elements include: titles, north arrows, legends, scale bars, locator map, sources, author, date, and spatial reference system/coordinate reference system.
- A single map of a small region (such as a wall map of Hawaii) should include all common map elements.
- Maps of large regions such as the entire world do not need north arrows, scale bars, or locator maps.
- If you have multiple maps and they share the same scale, north direction, and legend, you can group the maps together and just provide one scale bar, north arrow, and legend.
- Simple maps in a report that share the same sources, author, date, and spatial reference, should have this information defined once in the report (front matter and sources) rather than with each map.
Include a title unless your map has a caption such as in a report. Choose a title that is concise and informative (include subject, place, & time if appropriate). In many cases, the title acts as a gateway to accessing the map and figures prominently in the visual hierarchy.
Include a north arrow if it is not obvious which direction north is such as when showing the entire world. A north arrow should always be included if north is not "up" on the page.
Scale bars should be included in maps of smaller regions but not on maps of the world or continents.
and divisions are easy to understand and use.
|In this example, the labels are running together and the
units are not rounded in a way that is easy to use. This is a
poor example of a scale bar. In this example, the scale bar is easy to read.
Use a legend when it is needed. If your map is about "cities" and only cities are shown on the map, you probably do not need a legend. If the cities are symbolized based on their size, you do need a legend.
The word "Legend" should NOT appear in the legend. Your legend title should help your map reader understand what is being shown on the map; sometimes it is not necessary to include a legend title at all. Legend titles and labels should not include underscores or layer names. Include only necessary information/layers in your legend, appropriate to your map's purpose and audience. Legend symbols should match size and color to their counterparts on the map.
Make sure your legend is easy to read. If necessary, include a background color to make the text and symbols more legible. Make sure you add a background color and border and then then adjust the gap around the border so the legend items do not run up against the border.
Note: When adding a background in ArcGIS, you also have to add a "gap" to the "background" and the "frame".
Date, Author, Sources, Spatial Reference System/Coordinate Reference System
This is "an ciliary" text and should be relatively small (but still readable, never below 9 points) and toward the bottom of the page.
Author: Jim Graham
What's wrong with this map (see how many you can guess before checking below)?
- Scale bar values overlap
- Text is too small in the author and legend and way too many labels are included on the map.
- No title or caption
- Element positioning is poor
- Neat line is broken
- The county is selected (has a blue border)
- Missing north arrow
- Legend does not need the word "legend" and the legend entries are a mess
- Legend needs a border
- Background should be blue and the other counties should be included to give structure.
- Humboldt County is not an island!
How about this one?