Ask A Cartographer

Feature Type Order in Legend

May 12 2010 | 0 comments
Categories: Map Elements

Are there any rules for the order of feature types in a legend. I was once told that point symbology should always appear first, followed by lines and then polygons...however, I cannot find any documentation that supports this. Thanks for the input.

Mapping Center Answer:

There are no hard and fast rules about the order of elements in a legend, although Slocum et al. provide a nice discussion of alternatives in their 2005 textbook Thematic Cartography and Geographic Visualization, Second Edition (pages 205-208.) There are no hard and fast rules about the order of elements in a legend, although Slocum et al. provide a nice discussion of alternatives in their 2005 textbook Thematic Cartography and Geographic Visualization, Second Edition (pages 205-208.) In this text, they state, "Legend symbols are often organized into groups, based on particular criterion." They give an example (shown below) of legend in whcih the symbols are grouped according to whether they represent natural or cultural features. In another example the symbols are grouped according to general geometric form, such as points, lines and polygons (as you suggest). And in a third example the symbols are grouped according to whether they relate to the map's thematic information or base reference information.

Slocum et al. Legends

Depending on the subject of your map, one of these, or some other grouping, will work best.

We did write a blog entry on legends but it does not address this particular aspect of legend design.

If you would like to post a comment, please login.

Contact Us | Legal | Privacy |