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Should a map always have north as "up"?

September 26 2007 | 0 comments
Categories: Cartographic Design

Should a map always have north as "up" (i.e., the top of the page)? What is the accepted rule? Thanks!

Mapping Center Answer:

Generally, ‘north is up’ is a good rule. The two exceptions I can think of are both large scale maps. One is for a neighborhood scale map where the street grid is rotated, so rotating the map so that most of the streets run horizontally and vertically is often preferred. The other is in island cartography, where the accepted convention is the beach is at the bottom of the page, allowing the maximum amount of information about the land to be shown on any given sheet (in fact some of ESRI’s customers in Hawaii were adamant about this a number of years ago in lobbying for the data frame rotation feature in ArcMap).

Another kind of map altogether is a strip map, where a route, no matter how circuitous is straightened out and mapped in segments.

The only other thing I can think of is when local tradition or convention dictates north not being up.

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