CV-11 - Common Thematic Map Types
Thematic maps cover a wide variety of mapping solutions, and include choropleth, proportional symbol, isoline, dot density, dasymetric, and flow maps as well as cartograms, among others. Each thematic map type requires a different data processing method and employs different visual variables, resulting in representations that are either continuous or discrete and smooth or abrupt. As a result, each solution highlights different aspects of the mapped phenomena and shapes the message for the map readers differently. Thematic maps are tools for understanding spatial patterns, and the choice of thematic map type should support this understanding. Therefore, the main consideration when selecting a thematic map type is the purpose of the map and the nature of the underlying spatial patterns.
This entry reviews the common types of thematic maps, describes the visual variables that are applied in them, and provides design considerations for each thematic map type, including their legends. It also provides an overview of the relative strengths and limitations of each thematic map type.
CV-21 - Map Reading
Map reading is the process of looking at the map to determine what is depicted and how the cartographer depicted it. This involves identifying the features or phenomena portrayed, the symbols and labels used, and information about the map that may not be displayed on the map. Reading maps accurately and effectively requires at least a basic understanding of how the mapmaker has made important cartographic decisions relating to map scale, map projections, coordinate systems, and cartographic compilation (selection, classification, generalization, and symbolization). Proficient map readers also appreciate artifacts of the cartographic compilation process that improve readability but may also affect map accuracy and uncertainty. Masters of map reading use maps to gain better understanding of their environment, develop better mental maps, and ultimately make better decisions. Through successful map reading, a person’s cartographic and mental maps will merge to tune the reader’s spatial thinking to the reality of the environment.