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Map Symbols

September 18 2010 | 0 comments
Categories: Symbology

When creating map symbols for the Arc programs are there any established standards for GIS symbols? Example if you are mapping geological features do you use the same map symbols that the USGS use? I guess what I am wanting to know is if there are universal symbols already in existence or are they simply incorporated in to the GIS programs?

Mapping Center Answer:

First, let's look at the terms "map symbols" and "GIS symbols".

Map symbols are used to symbolize the GIS data and GIS symbols are really not a term we use. I think what you mean is that you are using GIS to apply map symbols to the geographic features.

All the "Arc programs" including ArcGIS are tools used to create maps (among many other things). So GIS programs such as ArcGIS include map symbols, which adhere to standards whenever possible. There are standard symbol sets within the software that can be used to symbolize your GIS data. Where there are standards set of symbols established in disciplines and industries, we make every effort to incorporate them into our software for our users. Examples of these are in the Civic.style, where the APA (American Planning Association) contributed their standard for color and fill symbols; another is the Geology 24K.style which has the older standard (95-525 specification) of the USGS for content.

On the other hand, one of the challenges for standards being incorporated into the Arc programs, is obtaining permission from entities and individuals in order to distribute styles within the software. In the case of the Petroleum.style, the symbols were the most commonly used point symbols as submitted by the PUG (petroleum user group) via the Chairman from Chevron Oil at the time. Industries often have their own proprietary standards for GIS symbols, and are not able (due to restrictions) or willing (ownership issues) to share.

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