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Do you know a good resource that shows how maps should be presented?

December 17 2007 | 0 comments
Categories: Cartographic Design

Do you know a good resource that shows how maps should be presented. e.g. If you were a GIS professional and you wanted to include a map in a report or for a client, is there a protocol for the information boxes, what should be included, the legend, scale, north arrow, datum, spheroid, coordinate system.
Thanks for your help,

Mapping Center Answer:

Once source many cartographers derive inspiration from, particularly early in their careers, is Edward Tufte’s books. Many folks don’t trust themselves to think and so they just follow the “rules” blindly, i.e., every map must have a north arrow. Tufte pushes his readers to think, the successful result appears to everyone else as common sense. I haven’t had a chance to look at his latest book, Beautiful Evidence, but I have the other three.

Given the way you phrased your question, it shows you know many of the variables involved in mapping, and each of these must be right for the maps you are making, and there’s no single most correct solution. It sounds like you have a design problem. If you’re not a designer, then Tufte’s books are definitely a good place to start. There also a number of books on map design, the Cartographers’ Favorites tab on the Mapping Center “Other Resources” tab lists several.

In particular for reports, the broader context is also important; for instance if several maps will appear in the report, there ought to be some visual consistency to tie like things in those maps together. Elements like legends, scale bars, etc., which are often necessary on stand-alone maps, may not be as needed in a report if the reader is already familiar with the information these elements convey. Design for your audience; give them the elements they will need to understand what the map is supposed to communicate, and no more.

The two textbooks that Cartographers use to give them some good guidance on this are Dent’s Cartography: Thematic Map Design, and Robinson et al’s Elements of Cartography. There are some good guidelines specifically for map layout and design. Tufte’s books are more about graphic design not necessarily cartographic design so you sort of have to infer from them, which makes them a little harder to find direct answers for cartography. But they do make you think.

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