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Geog 353 Lecture Outline: Map Layout & Intellectual and Visual Hierarchies
Update: 10/5/16

We will review chapters 6 (The Big Picture of Map Design) and 7 (The Inner Workings of Map Design) from the Making Maps book. Additional information and examples can be gleaned from the material below.


Map symbolization: in essence, choosing visual marks to effectively represent the points, lines, and area data of our base maps and thematic data

The Visual Variables

Today: visual hierarchy, 'marginal' map information, and editing

1. Visual Hierarchy and Map Design

Importance of understanding a map's purpose prior to making the map

Map purpose drives

It also drives the design of the map

A map's intellectual hierarchy: given the purpose and content of the map

PROP) Voyager Map

Once you make decisions about the intellectual hierarchy you need to choose a visual hierarchy that adequately represents the intellectual hierarchy

Visual hierarchy adds 'depth' to a flat paper or on-screen map (above).

Failed visual hierarchy (left) limits the map's ability to effectively communicate

"Public speakers arrange their material to emphasize certain remarks and subordinate others. Professional photographers often focus the camera to provide precise detail in certain parts of the picture and leave the remainder somewhat blurred. Advertising artists organize ads to accentuate some spaces and play down others. Choreographers arrange the dancers so that some will stand out from the rest on the stage. Professional cartographers must go through similar activities in designing the map." (B. Dent)

Customary Positions of Map Elements in the Hierarchy: higher in intellectual and visual hierarchy towards top of list, lower in intellectual and visual hierarchy towards bottom of list. Given a particular map purpose, these may shift in the intellectual and, thus, visual hierarchy:

Lab Project: Intellectual and Visual hierarchy of your maps and WWW pages

Map elements that are intellectually important should be made to be visually dominant on the map: how do you do that?

1a. Figure Ground Defined

If we understand how people perceive visual hierarchies, we can use that information to guide the design of the visual hierarchy of a map

Figure ground phenomena

Figure ground on maps will fail if the map is too visually homogeneous

We have to do something on maps to set off that 'automatic perceptual mechanism and to make sure that the figure ground we achieve represents the intellectual hierarchy of the map.

When we achieve figures on maps, they are seen as separate from the rest of the map, have form and shape, appear to be closer to the viewer than the ground, have more noticable color (or value), and are associated with meaning

We can manipulate figure ground to communicate what is most important in the map display, and to organize what the viewer sees to reflect the relative importance of the material on the map.

Next: look at some means of enhancing figure ground on maps (or any visual display)

1b. Achieving Visual Hierarchy using Figure Ground

HANDOUT) Figure Ground Examples

1. heterogeneity: noticeable visual differences tend to separate figure from ground

2. articulation: figure has more detail than ground

3. shape: figure has shape

4. contour: objects with sharp, well defined edges tend to form a figure

5. closure: closed objects tend to form a figure

6. common fate: objects moving in the same direction tend to form a figure

7. interposition: continuance behind a figure

8. value: darker areas tend to be figure

9. proximity: objects close together tend to form a figure

10. simplicity: simple objects tend to form a figure

11. similarity: of shape, size, and value tend to form a figure

12. direction: objects with the same orientation tend to form a figure

13. color: higher color intensities tend to be figure

14. texture: coarse textured areas tend to be figure

15. familiarity: familiar shapes tend to be figure

16. shadow: objects which have a shadow tend to be figure

PROP) Voyager Map

Sum: various techniques for using figure-ground phenomena to enhance the visual hierarchy of your map

2. 'Marginal' Information and Editing

2a. Marginal Information

The stuff that appears around the margins of a map

Titles and labels: establish geographic, topical, and temporal context


If mapping statistical information, you may want to include a graph of the data range, standard deviations, etc. - if relevant to the material being mapped

Don't have to put "key" or "legend": waste of space

Base map and thematic data source information

Note all relevant information about base map: source, scale, orientation

When to use north arrow

2b. Editing and Blunders


Map symbolization: choosing visual marks to effectively represent the points, lines, and area data of our base maps and thematic data

Fundamental aspect of map symbolization: effective representation of intellectual hierarchy with a visual hierarchy and basic techniques for doing that

E-mail: Geog 353 Main Page and Course Description krygier teaching page. krygier top page.

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