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Defining cartographic standards for a private organization

October 02 2008 | 0 comments
Categories: ArcGIS Methods, Cartographic Design, Cartographic Effects, Cartographic Representations, Labeling, Map Elements, Maplex, Page Layout, Symbology

I am in the process of reviewing our internal cartographic standards for our GIS group and had two questions:

  1. 1. Are there any good frameworks or templates for codifying geographic standards for a small organization?

2. Are there any widely accepted existing standards out there that are not too complicated for general use within a small organization?

I'm looking for things like symbology and scalability rules like type size ranges vs. map size (use XXpt fonts as the minimum font size for a 24x36 map) or use italic text to label bodies of water, color pallets for overlaying line-work on true-color aerials, standard ways to depict Interstates vs State Roads, etc.

As much of what I'm asking depend on the types of maps being produced, here is a brief description. We do a lot of site analysis and suitability mapping which includes parcel, zoning, future land use, elevation contours, natural resource, stormwater/flooding, and census demographics layers typically over a true-color aerial basemap. This puts color contrasts and readability at a premium. Our maps are typically distributed as hard-copies produced by either color laser-printers or medium to high-end inkjet plotters.

Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you!

Mapping Center Answer:

OK, so that's a big question and there's no simple answer.

First, it's great that you're reviewing your internal cartographic standards. Here are some thoughts on your questions:

  1. First, I think it's a huge waste of time to do something like make a 20+ page document where the cartographic standard is described in nausiating detail--that will make sure it never gets used.  Since you're using ArcGIS there are a handful of things that work well as defacto "templates":
  • Styles--have a standard style; even go so far as to replace the ESRI style on ArcGIS installations in your organization.  The problem with just a style is telling people about it and specifically what each element/symbol is supposed to be used for, so for example, don't include 3 north arrows when you really want one specific north arrow used on one map, and another on a different map.  Make a style for each product with only what is needed for that product and nothing more.
  • Map Documents & Layers--notice I didn't say templates (MXTs), which are no different than MXDs. MXD and LYR files are great for giving people standard layer symbology.  The MXD is a way to ensure data frame properties and drawing order are handled.  MXDs are also a way to share map layouts and graphics. You can even use an MXD as a graphic library that you only ever open, select something, copy it, and paste it into the map you're working on.
  • Geodatabase Schema--This is the best way to share cartographic representations; a style is fine if you only have a few representation rules that could be widely applied, but if you've got more than a few, the style-based workflow will become tedious quickly.

2. This is an interesting question.  I don't think there are, because if there were we (all of us) would know about them.  We've written in an ad-hoc fashion about many of the things you bring up; the idea is to pick and choose what you want as it applies to your work.  Some of our Users Conference Technical sessions about web mapping actually get a bit closer to what you're asking for, but that's it as far as I know about.

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