Mapmaking, by digital or manual methods, involves taking complex geographic information and building a visual image with many components. Creating effective maps requires an understanding of how to construct the elements of the map into a coherent whole that executes the communicative purpose of the map. Visual hierarchy and layout are the cartographer’s tools for organizing the map and completing the map construction. The cartographer layers the mapped geography in an image into a visual hierarchy emphasizing some features and de-emphasizing others in vertical ordering of information. Likewise, the cartographer arranges the components of a map image—title, main map, inset map, north arrow, scale, legend, toolbar, etc.—into a layout that guides the reader’s eye around the horizontal plane of the map. The visual hierarchy and layout processes work together to create the structure of the map image.
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