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The One-minute Cartographer

Aileen Buckley and Charlie Frye

Mapping Center and Cartographic Projects Group
ESRI, Redlands

Introduce ourselves, explain that our backgrounds combine to include formal

cartographic education, in-depth software knowledge, and over 20 years of
experience making maps with GIS. This presentation isnt meant to be a systematic
discourse on map design or critique; instead, its a review of quick tips and easy
things anyone can do to ensure the map theyre making is better than it was a few
minutes ago.

Session Description: The credo of the One-minute cartographer rests on three

ideas: the need to clearly appraise what the map needs, the knowledge of how to
make the appropriate edits, and the ability to evaluate the results. These are the
secrets of the One-minute cartographer One-minute appraisals, One-minute fixes,
and One-minute evaluations. Design principles and common-sense cartography
underpin the short- and long-term success of your maps. In this session, we teach
you some fundamental design principles (color selection, typography, page layout,
etc.) and how to use them for map making with ArcGIS. Youll also learn where to
get help when youre stuck, and how to know you got the job done right. In the end,
youll be equipped with an arsenal of tips and tricks to design better maps and make
them come to life with ArcGIS.


Appraisals: finding common errors (and identifying
easy cartographic opportunities)
Fixes: doing minor repairs (choosing better colors)
versus major repairs (overhauling the data
then the map)
Evaluations: knowing when the map is right, it
should represent classic cartographic design

Well be presenting the things we do when we design our own maps and review or
critique others maps. We organized our content based on the best seller The One
Minute Manager in which the most common tasks are broken down into
manageable one minute segments. For mapping, you have three primary tasks:
1.Finding the mistakes that you make,
2.Correcting them,
3.Making sure that your corrections are right.

Once you know how to appraise the map for errors, you are better able to avoid the
same mistakes in the future and you can find opportunities to improve the map even
if it is not actually wrong.

Once you start making enough corrections to your maps, you can start to gauge
which ones will be quick and easy and which will take more time and perhaps
require you to work a bit more on your database design.

Evaluation of your map or of a colleagues map is your opportunity to make sure that
any fixes you made did not inadvertently affect something else in the design.

Caveats to our presentation

Appraisals, Fixes, and Evaluations cannot

resolve everything
Great maps require planning and time
Some things take more than a One-minute

There are a couple of caveats:

One is that you may have an idea of what is wrong and what you want to do to fix it,
but sometimes, you cant do it this might be due to:

1.Software limitations
2.Data limitations that is, the data are not in the right format, they dont have the
right attributes, they arent for the right date, they aren't at the right resolutions, and
so on, or
3.The problem just doesnt lend itself to any sort of cartographic solution.

Also, remember that a great map that was put together quickly is probably a fluke.
Maps take time to design, make and refine. They can also sometimes take some
time to publish.

And finally, some things that would be good to do take more than a minute, so well
point these out but not focus on them here.


This presentation will be posted on Mapping Center when we get back to Redlands
so you can download it there to see the graphics and the details.

From the outset

Know your message

Know your audience
Design for the media

A caveat to this presentation is that we will assume you have already identified the
message you want to share, the audience you want to message to be received by,
as well as the media that will be used to send the message (Web, paper, projection,

If its not in the database

its not going to be on the map!

Symbols for features
Hierarchy and variety for labels
Special cartographic effects

One overarching concept that we have learned, then confirmed, over the years is
that your data need to support your mapping, unless you want maps that are made
of what are called dumb graphics graphics that are not smart enough to know
whats under them that is, the database.

This relates not only to the symbols, such as roads drawn with different line colors
and widths, but also to the labels, such as the names of roads. And some special
cartographic effects also require database modification. For example, if you want to
use a highway shield, you need to have a field in the data that contains just the text
to be displayed within the shield symbol. In some cases you will have other text in
the field such as HWY or I- these need to be stripped out so that only the
highway number is shown in the shield. This example is a case where you can use
a special script available on the ArcGIS Resources > Expressions, Queries, &
Statements tab of Mapping center it will calculate the label you need for highway
shields from a field that contains highway numbers and additional text.

You will find that you can either prepare your database up front before you start
mapping or you will have to retrofit it later. As you become more familiar with how
you can use the power of the database, the focus will shift from retrofits to planned
database design. In this presentation, we will show you how you can set some
things up in advance to avoid time consuming and diversionary tasks later.


Features roads
Labels street names
Effects highway shields

Demo how roads have attributes to symbolize and label them differently. And demo
how the highway shield field looks.

Highway shield labels

Again, that script is available on Mapping Center on the ArcGIS Resources tab.

Project yourself

Be less geographic!
Warning, warning!
Straighten up!
Modify the central
and standard parallels?
Give me a clue!
Annotate the map

Lets start in now on our one minute mapping tips and tricks. The first topic is

Well cover a number of subjects, starting with choosing alternatives to the

geographic projection that a lot of data are stored in.


When you get a data set, it might be stored in a geographic projection. Most often,
you want to choose a different projection for your map so that the distortion on this
projection is reduced. Note for example that the top of the map is at 90 degrees
north this is the North Pole and really all of that area should converge at one
point. On this projection there is distortion increases the closer you get to the poles.
This is not the ideal solution for many maps.


You might decide at this point to choose a new projection. One that you often hear
about is the Mercator projection, so you might choose it because you are familiar
with it. But notice the distortion towards the poles on this map. It is even worse!
This projection is a very good choice for one special use navigation. But if you
are making a map for other reasons, like showing people where things are or how
much of something is there, this is not a good solution.

Instead, you might want to use an equal area map projection one that minimizes
the distortion of areas across the map. You can see that the polar areas in this map
are not as exaggerated the land areas there appear to be more like what we
expect. However, you may also have noticed that the shapes are distorted.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to retain both area and shape.

Winkle Triple

One thing you could do is use a compromise projection which attempts to

minimize the distortion in both area and shape. This Winkle Triple projection, for
example, is a compromise projection that the National Geographic Society uses for
many of its maps because it has this property.

Warning, warning

Suggestions are
The name is helpful
From and to are the
Online support

Sometimes when you are adding data to your map document, you will see a
warning about the transformation. Dont just close this window and especially
dont be tempted to check the box for Dont warn me ever again!. This warning is
there to make sure that your data will be aligned. If you click the Transformations
button, you are often presented with some possible choices and often the name of
the transformation is your clue to whether it is the right one to use or not.

Note that the name of the transformation works for both the projection you are
transforming FROM and the one you are transforming TO and vice versa!

If you still cannot determine which to choose, then the online support forums can
usually provide the help you need.

Straighten up

Modify the central meridian

Once you have chosen a projection, you might notice that your area of interest is
not straight up anymore. This is because the central meridian for the projection is
based on a different extent than the area you are mapping. This is really easy to fix.
Simply right click the name of the data frame in the Table of Contents, click the
General tab, and set the Display units to Decimal Degrees. Close the window.
Then note in the lower right corner of your ArcMap screen what the longitude is as
you move your cursor over the middle of your map area. An approximate number
will do.

Now right click the name of the data frame in the Table of Contents, click the
Coordinate System tab, and click Modify. On the Central Meridian line, enter the
longitude for the center of your mapped area. Close the window.

Now your map should straighten up.

An added advantage is that you have now reduced some of the scale distortion in
your mapped area because the scale factor is 1.0 (there is no distortion) along the
central meridian.

Oregon 2-6 rule:
While were at it 46 N 42 N = 4 degrees
4 / 6 = 0.6
The 2-6 Rule 42 + 1.2 = 43.2
46 1.2 = 44.8





While were at it, why not further reduce the scale distortion? You can also set the
standard parallel or parallels which will also have no scale distortion. If you are
mapping an east-west trending area, you can use two standard parallels so that
there are two lines along which there is no distortion. But how do you choose the
parallels or latitudes? You will use the 2:6 rule.

First you determine the total north-south range. In our Oregon example, the
northern border is at about 46 degrees north and the southern border is at 42
degrees north (again, approximate numbers are sufficient), so the total range is
about 4 degrees of latitude. Divide that range by 6 in our example, that is 0.6.
Now double that (for our example, this is 1.2). Add it to the smaller latitude, and
subtract it from the larger latitude. This essentially divides your area into six strips
of latitude. Finally, set the standard parallels down two and up two from the top and
bottom edges, respectively.


Central meridian
Standard parallels

Demo how to set the central meridians and the standard parallels. Both are in the
data frame properties, under the Coordinate System tab. Click Modify and type in
the new numbers.

Give me a clue

Once you have gone to the trouble of setting up the projection for your mapped
area, share that info with your map readers. An experienced map reader will know
that you have taken the steps you can to reduce the distortion, and the less
experienced reader will have something to refer to if they need to find more
information. You can either share all of the info that is provided about the current
coordinate system (you can actually just copy and paste what is shown in the upper
left part of the Coordinate System tab of the Data Frame Properties page), or you
can provide an abridged version. In this example, we indicate that the projection
parameters used for this map are listed on a web site so we give the sites URL to
save space on our page.


Too many vertices

Line decorations
Too few vertices
Faceted curves

The next topic is generalization. You have probably seen data that seems way too
simple for the amount of area in which it is shown. When this happens, smooth
lines appear to be a series of straight line segments. Conversely, and more likely,
you have seen a very complex data shown in a small area. When this happens, the
line segments start to coalesce and a single line can appear to be very thick or it
may even look like a polygon. The complexity of the data and the size of the map
are not in sync.

You can test if there are too many or too few vertices per page or screen unit.

If there are too many:

Wide line or outline symbols will spike an example is a thick outer boundary
Line decorations (marker symbols along a line) may not be oriented properly
an example is railroad lines with ties.
If there are too few:
Things that should be smooth curves look faceted examples are boundary
lines and transportation or hydrographic lines.


Too many vertices

Too few vertices

Demo how the linework looks at differing scales.

Switch data sets

ESRI Data & Maps StreetMap

2 levels Symbology
States and States_DTL Different levels of
Counties and Counties_DTL generalization
Rivers and Counties_DTL
Interstates, Highways,
Resource Center
Major Roads
Content tab

Generalization is not a one minute fix if you were to try to correct all your data. So
what do you do? The fastest and easiest thing to do is to switch data sets so that
you use something that is more appropriate. For your base map data
(transportation, boundaries, hydrography, cultural feature, and physiography) there
are some solutions right at your fingertips.

ArcGIS comes with an ESRI Maps and Data DVD as well as StreetMap data.
These data come in more than one level of generalization. The Data and Maps
DVD contains two levels the _DTL in the name indicates that it is the more
detailed data. The StreetMap data not only has multiple levels of generalization, it
is also symbolized appropriately for different scale maps. This is often a good place
to start, and you can simply adapt the symbology to the subject of your map.

Additionally you can check out the data on the ESRI Resource Center -- the
Content tab gives you access to data you can use on your map, including both GIS
data and imagery. This content is updated periodically so if you are looking for data
today and it is not there, it may be added to the site at a later date.

Here is where you can find the Resource Center data. Go to
and click on the Content tab. Click the layers tab to access the data.

Rise and shine

Shaded relief
Mosaic the DEMs tiles (if necessary), but do not
project your DEM
Create the hillshade and then project it
Z units if you have a geographic projection or if the
units are not the same

Now lets move on to terrain representation.

Often you want to use a nicely shaded terrain model as the base for your map.
There are lots of sources for the DEM data that is used for hillshading often they
are stored in geographic coordinates. If you are not aware of this, it can pose a
problem for you.

First, you may need to mosaic a number of tiles together to cover your study area.
If you do this, be sure that you do NOT project the data first or you will end up with
some ugly artifacts such as striping. Instead, mosaic THEN create your hillshade.

Some of you may want to project your data before you hillshade it again this will
lead to some ugly artifacts. Hillshade first THEN project the hillshade.

If your data are in geographic coordinates, then the X and Y values for longitude
and latitude will not be the same as the Z values for elevation which are usually in
either meters of feet. Hillshading a DEM with different units results in a dark, overly
rugged-looking terrain. The solution is the use the Z factor so that the software will
process the X,Y and Z as the same units.

Z factor

We wont go into the details of this one minute fix right now but there is a really
simple solution to this problem. There is a blog entry on Mapping Center called
Setting the Z Factor Parameter Correctly that takes you through the steps.

It also gives you the Z factors for a range of latitudes.

Displaying hillshades

Warm grey or browns
Save to Style
Display Resampling
Color ramps

Now that you have the hillshade made correctly, you want to display it. You can of
course take the defaults, but the black to white color ramp can be easily warmed up
to soften the look of the terrain. You can even save this modification to a style so
that you can use it again in the future, speeding up your map making even more.
We also have a couple of other tricks to show you that relate to the display
resampling and color ramps.

To warm up the colors of the hillshade, right click the hillshade layer and click the
Symbology tab. Right click the color ramp and select Properties.

Click the color patch for Color 2 and make sure it is white. Click the color patch for
Color 1 and click More Colors. Set the Color Selector to HSV you can use the
arrow button to set this if you need to change it. Make the H value about 15-20, and
the S value similar. Then set the V value to about 30.

Click OK to get back to the Layer Properties dialog.

Now you can save that color ramp to a style so you can use it again. Right click the
color ramp and select Save to style Type in a name and click OK. The color
ramp will be saved in your personal style.

The next time you want to use it, right click the color ramp, click Graphic View to
toggle to show the names of the color ramps instead of the graphics, and look for
the name of your saved color ramp.

Sometimes your hillshade or any raster, for that matter -- will look very pixelly.
You can easily change the appearance of the raster without changing the data.

Right click the layer in the Table of Contents and click the Display tab. Under
Resample during display using: choose Bilinear Interpolation and click OK.

This smoothes out the appearance of the raster data. It does not CHANGE your
data it is only the display that changes.

Remember to only do this with continuous data data that vary smoothly from place
to place. If you do this with discrete data, like land cover, or in this example,
vegetation species,

The results are not a good representation of the data! These data really do have
discrete boundaries and the edges should not be smoothed.

We also said we would talk about color ramps. We are not going to show you how
to create or modify them beyond what we have already described because that is
usually more than a one minute fix. However, we can tell you that we have a
number of color ramps on Mapping Center that you can download. They are named
for the mapped area that they were designed to represent which may be similar to
the area you are mapping. These are located on the ArcGIS Resources > Styles

Here we can see some examples for the area near Redlands.

Here are some examples from other countries.

And we also included some color ramps that can be used with bathymetric data.


Warming up the colors

Save to Style
Display resampling

Demo changing the colors of the color ramp, saving it to a style, and changing the
display resampling.

Water, water, everywhere

One color
Two colors
Coastlines and streamlines
Coastlines the width of streams
Coastlines and boundaries
Use different symbology

Lets move on now to showing hydrographic features.

Of course, we usually want to use blue as the primary color for water features.

A couple of useful tips for choosing colors are to:
1. Use one color solution for all hydrographic polygons and lines when showing
where water is not the main point of the map.
2. Use a two-color solution when relatively detailed hydro is shown: one lighter
blue color for areas, and another slightly darker blue color for lines &

Program Files\ArcGIS\Bin\TemplateData geodatabase

When you are showing political boundaries that include shorelines, a good
cartographic convention is to show all shorelines in blue. Notice here that the
political boundary is grey, but where it follows a river or crosses a lake, it is blue.
You can achieve this effect using the data set that comes with the software it is
located in the Program Files\ArcGIS\Bin\TemplateData geodatabase. It is called
USABln (USA boundary line). Simply symbolize the water boundaries in blue and
the other boundaries in a different color, as we have with grey here.

Another quick tip is to symbolize the shorelines with a line with that is about the
width of streamlines.



On this map, for example, the width of the stream lines is 1.6 points and the width of
the shorelines is 0.8 points.


Color for water features

Shorelines and boundaries
Shorelines and streamlines

Demo the colors for hydrographic features, as well as setting the symbology for
shorelines with boundaries and with streamlines.


Qualitative Quantitative

Class differences / hierarchy Magnitude differences / hierarchy

Contrast / legibility Contrast / legibility

Lets move on now to symbols for qualitative and quantitative distributions. How
you choose symbols is related to the type of data you are mapping. If it is
qualitative data, you want to show differences between classes and to increase the
legibility and contrast of the symbols, you also want to use symbols that have some
visual hierarchy.

If you are mapping quantitative data, you want to show the differences in
magnitudes between classes, and again, to promote legibility and contrast, you also
want to have visual hierarchy.


Familiar symbols
Mimetic or pictographic symbols
Label when possible
Especially if only one or a few of that class on map
No need to restate the obvious (legend)
Familiar or labeled symbols

Your map readers will find it easier to decipher the symbols on your map if you use
a couple of simple tricks. First, use colors that are familiar to them we often see
blue for hydrographic features and green for vegetative features on maps. A grey
or black dash-dot line pattern is often used for political boundaries. Swamps are
often shown with the combination of a blue fill and on top of which little tufts of
green grass are drawn. Using familiar symbols does half the work for you.

You can also use symbols that look like the feature that is being mapped.
Pictographic symbols look like little pictures of the features. Mimetic symbols are a
bit more abstract, but they mime the thing that they represent to such a degree
that most map readers can easily decipher them.

In this map, conventional map symbols are used. The lake is blue, and the
vegetation is green. Streams are shown with a blue line, and trails are shown with a
dashed line.

The points are symbolized with mimetic symbols. The symbol in the middle is one
we probably all recognize to indicate rest rooms. The one on the right seems pretty
obvious it probably indicates that there are shower facilities. The one on the left
might be a little harder to decipher it looks like it might have an apple in it and you
might guess that the other symbol is a milk jug. To make sure your readers know
what the symbols mean, provide a clear legend and make sure that the appearance
of the symbols in the legend is exactly the same as on the map (size, color, etc.)

You do NOT need to include in the legend any symbols that are obvious or that you
can label on the map instead. For this map, it is not necessary to include in the
legend the blue lines for streams. Also on this map, there is one feature that is
symbolized with a green dashed line --

because it is clearly labeled on the map, there is no need to include it in the
legend. A goal is the keep your map reader looking at the map rather than having
to look back and forth between the legend and the map to understand the symbols.
Labels for features on the map and clear and familiar symbols helps you to achieve

Point symbols

Immediately deciphered
Style consistency
Legend exactly like map

In this discussion on symbology, well focus first point symbols, then well look at
line symbols, and finally well look at polygon fills.

For all of these, you want the symbols to be as immediately decipherable as

possible. You also want the style of your symbols to be consistent so that the
overall style of the map is clear. Finally, as we mentioned earlier, hierarchy in your
symbology makes it easier for the map reader because it promotes legibility.

Immediately deciphered

c e g I
Q _ W V

Again, pictographic and mimetic symbols may be more immediately deciphered.

Here we have a set of mimetic symbols on the top and some pictographic symbols
(very stylized drawings for map features) on the bottom.

Style consistency

c e g I
Q _ W V

You probably do not want to mix these two types of symbols on one map since the
top set of symbol is geometric, two-dimensional, single color and somewhat
abstract. The symbols on the bottom have color variation, they are more three-
dimensional, and they look more like the features they represent. The use of both
types of symbols would introduce style inconsistency on your map.


Hierarchy helps your map reader distinguish between the classes of features on
your map. Here we see that there are three classes of populated places: towns or
villages, small cities, and larger cities. Size, color, and shape are used together to
distinguish one class from the other and to give the map reader a clue that there is
a magnitude difference that relates to the number of people in the cities.

Legend exactly
like map

Whenever you create a legend, make sure the symbology is EXACTLY as it

appears on the map. If there are any differences, the map reader may not be able
to decipher your symbology. If, for example, we used the legend at the right instead
of the legend on the map, the legend symbols would be much larger than they
appear on the map. This would not help readers to identify the classes of symbols
on the map. Instead, the legend should appear as it does in the upper right corner
of the map.

Hierarchy for roads

Road type attribute

Cased line symbols
Symbol level drawing

Underpasses and overpasses

Now lets move on to line features, like roads. Again, you want to create hierarchy
so that your map readers can see the differences in road features. This is done
using an attribute most commonly road type, like Interstate, U.S. Highway, State
Highway, Major Road, Minor Road, Gravel Road, etc.

Many data sets contain they type of attribute if you use the data on the ESRI
Maps and Data CD, you will find this attribute it is Class attribute for the Major
Highways feature class. If you use the data in the Bin\TemplateData geodatabase,
again you will find it -- it is Type attribute for the Roads feature class.

Cased line symbols

To symbolize the roads, you can use the default ESRI style it has symbols for a
variety of road types, including highways, highway ramps, expressways and more.
Notice how some of these symbols have a black outline and a color on the inside?
This is called a cased line symbol. Lets take a minute to see how these are

Click Tools on the top bar menu, then Styles, and Style Manager. Then in the ESRI
default style, right click the Interstate symbol and click Properties. Note that this is a
two layer symbol the bottom layer is black and wider than the top symbol which
has a different color.

Cased line symbols

Click Tools on the top bar menu, then Styles, and Style Manager. Then in the ESRI
default style, right click the Expressway symbol and click Properties. Note that this
is a three layer symbol the bottom layer is black and wider than the second layer
which has a different color (yellow), and its thinner than the black line. This allows it
to lie on top of the black line but the thicker black line will show along both edges.
For this symbol, there is a third layer to draw the black line down the middle of the
expressway symbol.

Symbol Level Drawing

Lets take a look at a map to see what happens when we use these kinds of
symbols. This map is one you can easily access on the ESRI Maps and Data CD.
It is the US base map layer which already has a well organized and symbolizes set
of feature classes. Like me, you might want to start with this map and then make
any changes you think you need for your own map this save A LOT OF TIME!

Well zoom in on an area where line features with cased symbols intersect. Notice
how the black casing of the lines are not clearly connected? This can be confusing
for the map reader.

The easy fix for this is to use Symbol Level Drawing.

Just right click the layer in the Table of Contents and click Properties. On the
Symbology tab, click Advanced in the bottom right corner, and click Symbol Levels.

Here you can specify that you want to use Symbol Level Drawing for this layer
(Draw this layer using the symbol levels specified below), and you can specify
exactly how features with the same symbology connect (Join) and how features with
different symbology connect (Merge).

For our map, Limited Access highways have a blue interior and other highways
have red inside the black casing. The other roads are symbolized with uncased
lines. If we turn on Join for our two cased line features, then take a look at the map,

we will see that the lines with casings all connect now.

But they all appear to all be at one level. There is an easy thing we can do to fix
this, again using Symbol Level Drawing we can change the order in which they
draw. Lets go back and take a look at who Symbol Levels are set for this layer.
Note that the XXX.

Simply use the arrows at the right of the Symbol Levels box to change the order.
Well put our Limited Access highways on top since they usually (though not in all
cases) go over other roads in urban areas, like this area we are mapping. If we
were mapping a rural area, we would probably put them under the other roads. We
WONT Merge the Limited Access highways with the other roads because they
are limited access they would not connect all other roads where these features

Underpasses and Overpasses

You are probably wondering if you can create a map that has the correct drawing
order for all road features. It is possible, as you can see here, but it is not a one
minute fix. There is a blog entry on Mapping Center that takes you through the
steps if you want to spend a little more time making your map more accurate. But
even without this refinement, you will make a big improvement on your map if you
use the two simple fixes we just showed you how to join and merge the symbols,
and how to change the drawing order.


Cased symbols
Symbol level drawing
(Underpasses and overpasses)

Demo how cased line symbols are built, symbol level drawing for joining and
merging features, demo symbol level drawing for changing the draw order of
features, and demo symbol level drawing for more complex underpasses and

Dashed lines endpoints

Lets take a quick look at dashed lines which can also be very easily refined to look
better on your map.

Notice in this example that when you use dashed lines, the way that the lines stop
and start at the endpoints can vary. It will look better on your map if they all started
and stopped the same way for example, with a whole or half dash.

This is easy to do just create a cartographic representation of the layer and use
the defaults.

There is one other easy thing you can do to make the dashed lines look better this
has to do where there are sharp angles at vertices along the lines. At these points,
you may also want the lines to stop and start similarly.

The easy fix is to specify that you want to use Control Points, and the default
settings will produce a result that is uniform and easier for your map user to read
because each feature is symbolized the same way.


Dashed lines
Cartographic representations for
dashed lines

Demo taking the current dashed line symbols and converting them to cartographic
representations and show how it takes care of where dashed lines join at the end of
line features. Demo adding control points with the default settings and show how
this takes care of obvious cases of dashes at vertices with sharp angles.

Hierarchy for streams

Stream tapering using attributes

Flow or width
Not stream order
Mapping Center data and blog entry
Using cartographic representations

Lets look at how you can create hierarchy for another type of line feature
streams. Cartographers often use a technique called stream tapering in which the
features are shown with lines that gradually get wider downstream. This gives the
map reader the correct impression that there is increasingly more water

The way you can achieve this effect is again using an attribute. One that works
really well is stream flow which makes sense since stream tapering is used to
symbolize increasing stream flow. You might think that an attribute such as stream
order would also work, but it really doesnt give the same impression.

Data with a stream flow attribute

At this time, there arent many data sets that have a stream flow attribute in them,
so we created one for you and posted it on Mapping Center. This data set has
streams for the entire U.S. with a stream flow attribute so that you can achieve the
stream tapering effect. The data set is designed to be used for map scales of about
1:500,000 to 1:2,000,000.

Once you download the data and add it to your map, set the symbology to use
graduated symbols and set the field to Flow. Then refine the number of classes and
their widths for your particular map.

Labels to match the line symbols

Note that you can also use these symbol classes to set the label classes so your
larger streams are labeled with type that is larger, and perhaps bold, while smaller
streams are labeled with smaller type.

To do this, in the Label Manager, flow class can be used to set up labeling classes
to label the rivers with text sizes that reflects the importance or the size (in terms of
flow) of the river. To do this you can use the flow class attribute, but it will help if you
create fewer label classes than the number of classes for flow class (you will have a
harder time distinguishing a larger number of variations in label sizes). In the
example on this page, the feature class has a new field that is used to set up three
label classes (small = 0, medium = 1, and large = 2). These data are also simplified
to a great extent, making it efficient to label.


Hierarchy for streams

Demo the attributes in the Mapping Center data, demo how the flow class field is
used with Graduated Symbols to create stream tapering, demo how the symbol
classes can be used to create label classes, and demo how you can copy and paste
label class parameters for symbol consistency and speedy label property setting.

Cartographic representations - tapered streams

You may also have seen demos or descriptions of using cartographic

representations to achieve the stream tapering effect. It was used on this map that
our colleague David Barnes made.

You can see here that the rivers get wider as they flow towards the sea. Using the
cartographic representations approach, the streams are greatly exaggerated in
width so you probably only want to use this solution for highly stylized maps.

Symbols for areas

Qualitative Quantitative
Different kinds of things Different values of things

Now that we have talked about symbology for points and lines, lets talk about
symbolizing area features. As we said before, the choice of symbology depends on
the type of data you are mapping. You decisions for mapping quantitative
distributions will be different than for qualitative distributions.

Qualitative area symbols should show how the area features are different;
quantitative area symbols should show how the area features differ in the
magnitude of some value.

Qualitative area features - colors

Use familiar colors

Vegetation = green
Water = blue
Cultural differences motorways in England are blue
Use the real color of the feature if possible
Maintain the look and feel

For qualitative area features, use familiar colors to show what types of features are
on the map. But try to be aware of cultural differences in your audience. For
example, we might want to use blue for the lines on our map that represent
streams. In England, blue is also a color that is associated with the major
highways, called motorways. If you want to use blue for both these features, you
will have to introduce some kind of differences like a casing for the motorways or
a slightly different color of blue.

We saw earlier that for this map of Crater Lake we used familiar colors, and colors
that are associated with the features they represent but we also want to use the
colors that are really associated with the area that is being mapped.

People who have been to Crater Lake know that one of the most striking things
about the area is the color of the lake, so you want to try and capture that on the
map. The color blue that we use is therefore really vibrant.

Areas that dont have an obvious color

Urban areas
Black or red negative connotation?
Grey or orange
Distinction between qualitative areas
Saturation yes or no?
ESRI default styles

But what do you do when an area doesnt have an obvious color?

For example, what about urban areas? These are areas that have lots of color

Sometimes we are mapping a distribution, like land cover, in which urban areas are
the ones we want to emphasize. When there are lots of colors on the map, a
prominent color such as red or black will help draw attention to the areas. Also,
depending on the scale of the map, using these colors can help draw attention to
smaller, isolated areas.

But often we associate red or black with bad things in the landscape especially
when we use colors such as blue for water and green for vegetation, as we
probably would for a land cover map. But are urban areas really bad?

Using a slightly toned down version of the colors is a possible solution orange
instead of red or grey instead of black.

If you are trying to distinguish between qualitative areas (which you probably are),
you can use different color hues as we mentioned, orange, grey, blue, and green.

You might also think to use color saturation that is, the brightness of the color.
Be careful with this, though if you dont use it right, it will give the impression of
magnitude variations something we want for quantitative data, not qualitative data.

However, it can be very helpful to highlight those small, isolated areas.

ESRI default style

If you are having problems deciding what to use, start with the ESRI default style.
The symbols in there were designed using cartographic conventions and theory.
And often the name of the symbol gives you a clue as to an appropriate way to use


Urban areas
Distinction between qualitative areas

Demo symbolizing urban areas, and demo how to use symbols to distinguish
between qualitative areas.

Quantitative area features

Designing Better Maps appendix
ESRI colors

For quantitative area features, you want to show the variations in magnitudes of an
attribute. A great resource to use to pick good colors is ColorBrewer, which you can
find at These colors are also at the back of the Designing Better
Maps book available through ESRI Press.

At, you can spend some time here independently of making your
map to learn about:
Different color schemes
How you can choose colors that are appropriate for your publication
requirements (print maps, PowerPoint maps, online maps, etc.)
The impact that the number of colors has on the legibility of your map.

In the appendix in Designing Better Maps, it is easy to see all the color schemes
and choose one that works for your map.

Whats in a name?


Design Label Manager
Placement Maplex

Now lets move on to the text on your map. Well start with the text for the features
on the map and move on to the text for the other things on the page that is, the
map elements.

First, if you are labeling features on your map and the field that is used for labeling
is in uppercase, your map readers will likely find it harder to read the labels. The
combination of upper and lower case, known as proper case, is easier to read.

Proper case

If you have an uppercase field (this is pretty common for street names), you can
make an easy fix by using a calculate statement that is on the ArcGIS Resources
page of Mapping Center to create a field with proper case names.

Whats in a name?


Design Label Manager
Placement Maplex

We suggest that you use the Label Manager to design how your labels should look.
Using Label Manger, you can create different classes of labels for different types of
features (such as blue, italic text for streams and smaller, brown upright, text for
contour labels.)

You can also copy and paste label classes, so once you have a label class for
major roads, you could copy it and make the text size smaller for minor roads.

For label placement, using Maplex is a great solution to many of your placement
problems. The defaults produce pretty good results, right off the bat. Even better
results can be obtained if you spend a bit more time since that would take more
than a minute, well just suggest that you attend one of the Maplex sessions to learn

Another great resource is TypeBrewer. Its similar to ColorBrewer in that it is a web-

based resource freely available to you at It gives you the option to
specify some of the labeling parameters you want for your map, and then you can
download the label specifications so you know how to set the type size, color
spacing, and more, for your label classes. Again, this will be easier if you use the
Label Manager.

Type effects

Halos single color background

Shadows multi-color backgrounds
Bottom right

Now lets talk about some type effects, since we often see them used on maps, but
not always appropriately.

There are two ways that you can help your map readers see the text on your map
against the background. One is halos and one is shadows. Which you use should
depend on the background of your map.

Halos are small buffers around a piece of text you can set the color of the halo.
These are best used when you have a single color background and the text is the
same color as the conflicting graphics. In this example, the text and the county
lines are both white.

To resolve this graphic conflict, use a green halo. The result is that the lines are
broken where the text overlaps them. The problem is that the halo will not look
good where the background is a different color as with the label for Lincoln County
which extends into the water area here.

If you have a multicolor background, a better solution is to use a shadow. Here we
have grey text overlapping grey lines, and we have are fills that relate to some
quantitative measure.

Using a shadow, we can distinguish between the labels and lines more easily.

One place where the use of halos and legends is really useful is on image maps
maps that have an air photo or satellite image in the background. For these maps,
you have little control over the background, except to lighten or darken it and
increase or decrease the contrast. So you are often forced into using halos or
better yet shadows (these are multicolor backgrounds) to help your map users read
your legends.

To help you make design choices for image maps, there is a blog entry on Mapping

If you find yourself using halos and shadows on maps that you create that do not
have an image in the background, this is a clue that you are probably not designing
well for text legibility. This is especially true if you do not consider the text from the
outset. Often novice map makers forget all about putting text on their maps until the
very end. At that point, they have spent a lot of time fussing with the symbology for
the geographic features and map elements, so they are reluctant to start
redesigning so that the text is legible.

If you add the labels for your features as you add the features to your map, you will
be better able to design for text legibility. Dont wait until the end to add labels the
text on your map is a symbol, too just as important as the geographic features.



Transparency fade to white background

Lets move on now to something that cartographers refer to as figure-ground. A

number of times during this presentation we have talked about how legibility is
related to visual hierarchy the organization of information on the map into layers
that are on different visual planes.

Related to this is the concept of figure-ground, which is the spontaneous distinction

of what is in the foreground from what is in the background. You can think of this as
the very first hierarchical distinction that people will see on your map. Its their
ability to tell what the important AREA of the map is from the rest of the map, or
even the rest of the page.

There are quite a number of ways you can promote this. Well talk about one that is
a really easy fix you can make. Its called a whitewash effect.

In essence, what you do is emphasize the area you want to map by washing out the
area that is not important. In this map of Crater Lake, the area outside the park
boundary is lightened up. Can you see in the map on the right that the park area is
in the foreground and the rest is in the background?

An advantage of this method is that the world does not stop at the edges of the
mapped area. If you clipped the data to the park boundary, and mapped only the
area within the park, the irregular polygon, called a closed form, would appear to
be floating in space. This is great for figure-ground you definitely see the polygon
as the foreground but it doesnt help the map reader see the mapped area tied to
the earth.

Using the whitewash effect is really easy. All you need is a polygon or polygons
that make up the area outside your mapped area. Using a white fill for these
polygons and setting the transparency allows you to achieve this effect.



Demo how to create the whitewash effect.

You could also use a technique we called Fade to white but this is more than a
one minute fix, so we will write a blog entry on this for Mapping Center.

Again, an advantage is that there is some geographic reference outside the

boundary of the mapped area, but it fades out ultimately to a white background.
You can define how far out to set this area and how quickly the fading occurs over
the area.

This sort of combines the closed form and the whitewash effects into one.


use instead:
Key to Vegetation Species
People per square mile
U.S. Census Population
2000-2008 Population Change

Now that we have talked about your mapped data, lets talk about some of the
things that go on the same page as your map. We call these map elements, and
they include such things as legends, titles, scale bars, and text boxes, among

Lets start with legends.

One thing you can do to quickly and easily improve your map is to use the title of
the legend to give your map readers more information. They probably already can
tell that the thing they are looking at is a legend, so if you title it Legend you lose
the opportunity to give additional information.

For example, you can note that they legend provides a key to the symbology used
for vegetation species.

Instead, you might want to describe how the data were calculated, like People per
square mile, where the data came from, like U.S. Census Population, the date of
the data, like 2000-2008 Population Change, or some other aspect of the data.



To change the name of the legend title is really simple just XXX.

One other quick fix is to change the spacing between the legend boxes. In this
example, the population data we are mapping is classified into ranges that are
contiguous that is, the end of one range is the beginning of the next range. To
help our map readers understand this more intuitively, we can simply eliminate the
space between the legend boxes. Now the legend boxes are contiguous just like
the data.

This is easy to do just right click the legend and select Properties. Set the XXX
(vertical spacing?) to zero and click OK.


Patch shapes

If, however, we are mapping a qualitative distribution, we should not do this. The
spaces between the legend boxes help our readers to understand that this is not a
map of a contiguous range of quantitative values.

One other quick fix for a map relates to the legend patch shapes that is, the shape
of the boxes for area feature symbols in the legend. You want to use patch shapes
in the legend that are easily associated with the types of features that they
represent on the map. In this example, the map of counties in Iowa are rectilinear
and fairly uniform. Using a round or oval patch shape, or one that is irregular and
curvilinear, makes it harder for your map reader to associate the legend with the
symbols on the map.

Golden ratio

3:5 ratio is pleasing to the eye Legend patches

Legend area

Using a 3:5 ratio for the size of the patch shapes is a good rule of thumb. Why?
Because the human eye finds this Golden Ratio more pleasing than other ratios,
such as 1:1 (a square) or 1:5 (a long rectangle).

You can also use the golden ratio for the size of the legend area, not just the size of
the legend boxes.

Bounding boxes for legends

This will work whether you put a bounding box around the legend or not, because
the eye will see an unbounded area the same as a bounded area due to the density
of content in the area.


Patch shapes

Use for legend

patches of unique
features, not all

There are some instances in which using a different patch shape can help your map
readers. If you have a legend with many types of features (points, lines, and areas)
and many categories of features (such as natural features in the landscape and
features that represent human modification of the landscape), then patch shapes
can help your readers.

For example, you might have urban areas and agricultural areas, which are fairly
rectilinear when we see them in the landscape. You could use a rectangle legend
patch for these legend items.

You might also have lakes, which are more curvilinear. You could use a Water
Body patch shape for these types of features.

You might also have some features that are somewhat unique to the area and can
be seen repeatedly in the landscape. An example is circular irrigation. For these
features, you might want to create a new patch shape (a circle), or even use one of
the features on the map as the legend patch shape.

Choosing a patch shape is a quick one minute fix, but selecting a feature is a little
more complex so well again refer you to Mapping Center for instructions on how to
achieve this cartographic effect.

Orientation indicators

No north arrow on
some maps
Use graticule
Feature class
Data frame property
Use the geographic

Another map element is an orientation indicator. This is used to tell your map readers
which way is north on the map. One way to do that is to use a north arrow.

Do all maps need a north arrow? Well, no but all maps need some indication of
orientation. In some cases you can leave a north arrow off because it is implied that North
is Up. In other cases you HAVE to leave a north arrow off because it is simply wrong to
put it on the map.

Take a look at these maps notice the graticule (latitude, longitude lines). These tell you
which way is north. Yu can clearly see on the top two maps that north varies across the
map due to the projection being used and this is OK! For these maps, you would leave
the north arrow off because the graticule lines act as your north arrow, pointing at different
locations across the map to where north is.

What about the map at the bottom? You might be tempted to think that this is a map where
you could or should use a north arrow. Look carefully at the bottom boundary of the state
of Oregon. It aligns with a parallel (the 42 degree latitude line). Notice the slight curve?
This tells you that north varies on this map, too, and a north arrow would not be appropriate
to use. Again you could use the graticule, or you could simply leave it off because the
boundary lines help to indicate north. And if I added the counties, the map reader would
have even more information about the orientation of the map because the north-south
boundaries (line the southeastern boundary of Oregon) are aligned with the graticule.

Scale indicators

Use graticule instead

No scale bar on many
small scale maps
No variable scale bar
Scale bars for large
Mercator projection only!
scale maps

So not all maps need north arrows. Do all maps need scale bars?

Again, the answer is no. And again, there are some maps that should NOT have a
scale bar because, like orientation, scale varies across the map, especially at
smaller and smaller scales.

Knowing that scale varies across the map, you might be tempted to use what is
called a variable scale bar but be careful this only works for a Mercator
projection since scale variation is consistent at any latitude. The Mollweide
projection at the top does not have this property so you cannot use a scale bar or a
variable scale bar for this map. For this small scale map, you can again use the
graticule to indicate scale.

If you are making a larger scale map, say 1:250,000 or larger, you should probably
use a scale bar especially since larger scale maps are often used to determine

Review to this point

Decisions for the whole map


Before we go on, lets take a moment to review all that we have seen so far.

We started out talking about the important decisions you have to make that relate to
your whole map this includes selecting an appropriate projection and the right
level of detail for your mapped features.

Review to this point

Types of data
Physiography hillshades
Hydrography streams
Transportation roads
Cultural features mimetic/pictographic symbols
Qualitative area features urban areas
Qualitative area features counties, census units, zip code

Then we talked about various kinds of data you would add to your map, such as
raster data to create a hillshade, line data for streams and roads, point data for
cultural features, and area data for either qualitative or quantitative distributions.

Review to this point

Cartographic design for mapped features


We talked about the importance of creating hierarchy in the display of these data as
well as the overall impression of figure-ground.

Review to this point

Map elements
Orientation indicators north arrows, graticule
Scale indicators scale bars, graticule

We talked about type and how it is also a symbol on the map, and we talked about
some of the other elements you might add to your map, such as legends, as well as
scale and orientation indicators.

Page layout

Map area the symbolized, labeled data

Orientation indicator
Scale indicator
Text blocks e.g., projection information
Other map elements

Really we have talked about most of what you would put on the page.

Now that you have all the pieces you need to make some decisions on how you will
place all this information on the page.

Placement of map elements

Classic proportions 3:5 ratio

Visual flow

Root rectangle
rectangle Golden Mean

A guiding principle of layout is to consider classic proportions when making

decisions about the placement of map elements. Two good models are the road
rectangle and mean square options. Note that both systematically divide the
space into smaller yet similarly shaped subdivisions.

You might also be able to see how the use of thee classic proportion leads the eye
to flow across the page. Knowing this and how to use classic proportions to lay out
your page gives you the advantage of being able to lead your map readers eye
across the page.

On this map, for example, the classic root mean proportions lead the eye first
though the major land area at the left, then down to the associated peninsula at the
right , then back up to the islands in the middle thus effectively covering all the
areas that are important to read on this map (the Canadian lands that border the
Gulf of St. Lawrence.)

Its a balancing act

Open space is your

Visual association of
related elements
Dont box me in!
Align / distribute

Laying out the map elements on your page is a balancing act. You want to fill up
the space but you have to balance that with variation in the density (if there is the
same amount of information on all areas of the page, everything appears to be on
one visual plane).

Allow your map readers to find some space that does not have a lot of information
this open space allows them to know where to focus their attention.

In the map at the top, we can tell that Maine is not where we are supposed to be

Elements that are related are positioned near each other, such as the title of the
map and the legend.

Boxes can be used to direct the eye to certain locations and to focus attention within
the box. Boxes can also be used to show your map readers that things in the box
are associated with one another. But boxes also influence the way the readers eye
moves across the page.

For this layout, the eye is able to move pretty freely across the page. There are no
boxed areas and the expanses of connected water allow the eye to flow across the

Along the bottom are anchoring elements such as the horizontal scale bar, the two
lines of source data text at the bottom left, and the copyright statement at the
bottom right. This contextual information is located together so that the map reader
knows it is where to go to get information about deciphering the map content.


For this layout, it was important to guide the map reader through the steps in the hot
spot analysis, so you can see that each of the boxes on the page has a number in
the upper right corner. In addition, there were a number of page elements that
related to any one step so using boxes clearly identifies the related content.

This layout is much more structured the eye moves into a boxed area, stays there
for a while and then moves on to the next box in the sequence.


Appraisals: finding common errors (and identifying
easy cartographic opportunities)
Fixes: doing minor repairs (choosing better colors)
versus major repairs (overhauling the data
then the map)
Evaluations: knowing when the map is right, it
should represent classic cartographic design

Were out of time so that pretty much brings us to the end of our presentation.

In review, we presented the things we do when we design our own maps and review
or critique others maps. We organized our content into manageable one minute
segments. We talked about these three primary tasks:
1. Finding the mistakes that you make,
2. Correcting them,
3. Making sure that your corrections are right.

We hope that you now know better how to appraise a map for errors so that you are
able to avoid some of the mistakes that people make when mapping . We also
hope that you can find some new opportunities to improve your map even if it is
not actually wrong.


Again, just a reminder that many of the resources we talked about, including this
presentation, are or will soon be available to you on Mapping Center. The URL is