Making Effective Maps: Cartographic Design for GIS Public Deposited

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  • Maps are a graphic representation of the earth, showing the spatial relationship of the earth’s features
    whether cultural or physical. Central to this representation is reducing the earth’s features of interest
    to a manageable size (i.e., map scale) and its transformation into a functional two-dimensional form
    (i.e., map projection). As all maps are visual representations of selected phenomena, a cartographer
    must consider the key concepts that make a map a map: it is a scaled, selective, symbolized, and
    abstracted graphical representation of the phenomenon [4] [5].

    Scaled: Scaled refers to the fact that almost all maps are more useful when they are reproduced at a
    smaller scale than the actual phenomenon being mapped. For example, a road map of Idaho that
    when unfolded is the actual size of Idaho, is not very useful to us, so instead, we reduce the size of
    the spatial phenomenon being represented onto a more reasonably sized piece of paper [5].

    Selective: Selective means that maps should only include items that are directly related to the
    message of the map. For instance, a map designated to show where all the hospitals are located
    within a city should not include the location of every manhole cover in the city. The reason being, the
    location of the manhole covers is irrelevant to the locations of the hospitals, and therefore it would be
    a meaningless feature on the map and likely detrimental to achieving the map’s purpose [5].

    Symbolized: Symbolized, refers to the idea of extracting the item being mapped by using a
    representative symbol. Examples of representative symbols would be a star with a circle around it
    that represents a state capital, or a symbol of the front of a bus that represents a bus stop [5].
    Abstracted: Decisions about how to classify, simplify, or exaggerate features and how to symbolize
    objects of interest simultaneously fall under the realms of art and science. Moving from the real world
    to the world of maps is map abstraction. This process involves making choices about how to
    represent features. Regarding geographic information systems (GIS), we must be explicit, consistent,
    and precise in defining and describing geographical features of interest [4]

Date Issued
  • 2024
Additional Information
  • The creation of this work Making Effective Maps: Cartographic Design for GIS was supported by Open CU Boulder 2023-2024, a grant funded by the Colorado Department of Higher Education with additional support from the CU Office of the President, CU Office of Academic Affairs, CU Boulder Office of the Provost, and CU Boulder University Libraries.
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Last Modified
  • 2024-03-21
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