The use of map icons is an efficient way to condense a map object into a concise expression of geospatial data. Like all cartographic design, map icon design merges artistic and scientific elements into symbolic representations intended to be readily legible to map readers. This entry reviews the types of map icons and elements of icon design, including the ways in which the visual variables are used in map icon communication. As communicative devices, icons are imbued with cultural meanings and can oftentimes lead to the preservation of stereotypes. This review concludes with an examination of icons’ perpetuation of – and challenge to – cultural stereotypes.
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