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My map is ugly

August 16 2011 | 0 comments
Categories: Symbology

I have a very large scale map of a walking trail around a small pond. This is going to be plotted out at 31"x40" and posted at one of the trail entrances. I'm having a really hard time trying to make this map look like a nice quality recreation map. I want to show the trail outline on top of an orthophoto and mark where the benches and bridges are along the trail. I have the map attached, but really, I think it looks just awful. I tried looking for symbology that could be used to mark the benches and bridges, but I couldn't find anything that I thought would make sense. I need any ideas how to make this a nice looking map. Also, I'm planning on labeling the distance of the trail on the map, so do I need to have a scale bar?

Mapping Center Answer:

There is a nice download that you may find helpful -- it is a map template designed to help you symbolize image maps like the one you describe (a map that has a satellite image or air photo as the background). The map is called the Imagery Hybrid Basemap and you can download it from the Local Government Resource Center map gallery -- one of the .mxds in the Local Government Basemaps Template download is the Imagery Hybrid Reference Overlay which contains symbology for features that would overlay the image (the image itself was not included because it was too big).

In this template you will find symbology for labels that would overlay your map.  For other features, like polygons, I would use the same approach for the polygon boundaries as for the labels (light lines with darker casing using the same colors for the polys as their associated labels.)

For point symbols, such as benches and bridges, you could use character marker symbols with the same approach.  For example, you could use iconic symbols with a light color for the interior and use a darker version of the same hue for the casing.  Alternatively, to add some realism you could use a 3D type of symbol for the "landscape furniture" such as the benches.  Use the Search option in ArcGIS 10 to easily find the bench symbols.

With regard to your scale bar, given this is a trail map there should be some way of hikers being able to assess distance but you may prefer to do this by placing mile posts along the route or even specifying the route in terms of time rather than distance.

Finally, we did post a blog entry on labeling features on image maps -- some of the same principles would apply to point, line and polygon symbology:

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