Ask A Cartographer

Rotating a Data Frame

December 03 2009 | 2 comments
Categories: Page Layout

For most maps I make, I keep them oriented with north at the top of the page; however, sometimes the map fits the layout better if the data frame is rotated. I seem to remember that if a map is rotated, it is preferable to north rotated to the right. Is that correct, or it that a figment of my imagination?

I had produced a figure with north rotated to the right, but received figures of the site from another consultant, and their figures were rotated with north to the left. Does it matter, or is one direction preferable to the other?

Mapping Center Answer:

There is no cartographic rule dictating which way to rotate the data frame, if you need to vary from north at the top of the page. The general guideline though is to best fit the orientation of the map with the orientation of the page. As was pointed out to me recently by a colleague here, from a publishing perspective, wise use of space is often an economic decision. As you will soon be able to read in an upcoming blog entry, "If a space could be filled with map detail, and as a consequence take up a smaller area, there were savings, and therefore extra profit, to be made." So the bottom line is to make a decision that makes the best sense for your map and page layout. One cartographic "rule" that DOES relate to a map that is oriented so the north is not "up" is to ALWAYS include a north arrow or other oreintation indicator (like a graticule)! On these maps, you really need to alert the map reader that the map is not shown in the usual "north up" layout.

Multi page posted by Chris Mathers on Dec 4 2009 6:35AM
Consider if you are making a multi page document that the maps be rotated in such a way that the reader doesn't have to flip the document around too much. If the maps are going in a binder, this is important. Also, if the pages are printed front and back the space left for binding will be different for the front side and back side. If the document isnt being bound in a binder but stapled instead I would rotate with north being page left because that is the easiest way to turn a stapled document.
Good suggestions! posted by Aileen Buckley on Dec 4 2009 10:07AM
Chris has some good suggestions here -- thanks for offering them, Chris!

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