Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Exploring the Foundations of Proper Map Design

Exploring the Foundations of Proper Map Design

For this week's Communicating GIS class, we explored the different design principles that need to be considered in order to design a great map. Those 5 design principles are: visual contrast, legibility, figure-ground organization, hierarchical organization, and balance. Instead of describing each of these principles in length, I am going to show you the map I produced for this weeks lesson and then describe how my map follows the principles with easy to recognize examples within the map.


The map above shows the recreational areas for Travis County in Texas. Travis County is home to Austin, Texas. There may be multiple uses for a map like this such as event planning or municipal uses. Here are the ways that my map follows the five design principles:
  • Visual Contrast: Colors contrast well with one another. Nondescript symbols for recreation areas were given a color that allowed them to pop out from surrounding areas. Golf courses and bodies of water were given colors that normally describe these areas.
  • Legibility: Map information is at a large enough font that makes it easy to be read. The most important information has a large sized font and is located in specific areas of interest.
  • Figure-ground Organization: The main map area is front and center and the largest object on the page. It allows the reader to easily recognize that it is the most important visual element on the page and anything else is supplemental information. The title is at the very top so it can be the preface for the map below it, giving the reader and idea of what they should be expecting.
  • Hierarchal Organization: The design of the map follows a hierarchy of presenting information. The title is placed at the top with the map underneath it. Other map elements are located beneath the main map and provide further information to the reader after they are done processing the visual elements in the map.
  • Balance: Elements are placed in a way that gives the map flow and overall balance. The map itself is the largest element since it is the most important with smaller elements placed at the bottom to provide supplemental information.
While this is only my first venture into professional map design, I really learned a great deal of information about the different elements that go into making a properly designed map. This is just the beginning, however, and there are many more maps to create!



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