map design fundamentals

CV-09 - Color Theory

Color is the result of the visual perception of an energy source. It is described by its physical characteristics, mainly as a tridimensional variable modeled into a color space. Online tools exist to facilitate the use of color schemes to design a color palette, for artists, web designers, statisticians, etc. Colors in maps and visualizations must be combined to promote the visual hierarchy and harmony, balancing legibility, perceptual processing, and aesthetics. Color is a powerful visual variable and requires understanding the perception of color relationships. Existing color schemes are very useful to select a suitable color palette. As color is not experienced similarly across all map readers, issues about real-world connotations, conventions, specific color contrasts, and adaptation to color visual deficiencies and devices, are also to be taken into account when designing a color palette. This entry describes the main guidelines regarding color theory and related design practices as applied to map or geovisualization design.

CV-08 - Symbolization and the Visual Variables

Maps communicate information about the world by using symbols to represent specific ideas or concepts. The relationship between a map symbol and the information that symbol represents must be clear and easily interpreted. The symbol design process requires first an understanding of the underlying nature of the data to be mapped (e.g., its spatial dimensions and level of measurement), then the selection of symbols that suggest those data attributes. Cartographers developed the visual variable system, a graphic vocabulary, to express these relationships on maps. Map readers respond to the visual variable system in predictable ways, enabling mapmakers to design map symbols for most types of information with a high degree of reliability.

CV-07 - Visual Hierarchy and Layout

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.

CV-05 - Statistical Mapping (Enumeration, Normalization, Classification)

Proper communication of spatial distributions, trends, and patterns in data is an important component of a cartographers work. Geospatial data is often large and complex, and due to inherent limitations of size, scalability, and sensitivity, cartographers are often required to work with data that is abstracted, aggregated, or simplified from its original form. Working with data in this manner serves to clarify cartographic messages, expedite design decisions, and assist in developing narratives, but it also introduces a degree of abstraction and subjectivity in the map that can make it easy to infer false messages from the data and ultimately can mislead map readers. This entry introduces the core topics of statistical mapping around cartography. First, we define enumeration and the aggregation of data to units of enumeration. Next, we introduce the importance of data normalization (or standardization) to more truthfully communicate cartographically and, lastly, discuss common methods of data classification and how cartographers bin data into groups that simplify communication.

CV-04 - Scale and Generalization

Scale and generalization are two fundamental, related concepts in geospatial data. Scale has multiple meanings depending on context, both within geographic information science and in other disciplines. Typically it refers to relative proportions between objects in the real world and their representations. Generalization is the act of modifying detail, usually reducing it, in geospatial data. It is often driven by a need to represent data at coarsened resolution, being typically a consequence of reducing representation scale. Multiple computations and graphical modication processes can be used to achieve generalization, each introducing increased abstraction to the data, its symbolization, or both.

CV-05 - Statistical Mapping (Enumeration, Normalization, Classification)

Proper communication of spatial distributions, trends, and patterns in data is an important component of a cartographers work. Geospatial data is often large and complex, and due to inherent limitations of size, scalability, and sensitivity, cartographers are often required to work with data that is abstracted, aggregated, or simplified from its original form. Working with data in this manner serves to clarify cartographic messages, expedite design decisions, and assist in developing narratives, but it also introduces a degree of abstraction and subjectivity in the map that can make it easy to infer false messages from the data and ultimately can mislead map readers. This entry introduces the core topics of statistical mapping around cartography. First, we define enumeration and the aggregation of data to units of enumeration. Next, we introduce the importance of data normalization (or standardization) to more truthfully communicate cartographically and, lastly, discuss common methods of data classification and how cartographers bin data into groups that simplify communication.

CV-08 - Symbolization and the Visual Variables

Maps communicate information about the world by using symbols to represent specific ideas or concepts. The relationship between a map symbol and the information that symbol represents must be clear and easily interpreted. The symbol design process requires first an understanding of the underlying nature of the data to be mapped (e.g., its spatial dimensions and level of measurement), then the selection of symbols that suggest those data attributes. Cartographers developed the visual variable system, a graphic vocabulary, to express these relationships on maps. Map readers respond to the visual variable system in predictable ways, enabling mapmakers to design map symbols for most types of information with a high degree of reliability.

CV-05 - Statistical Mapping (Enumeration, Normalization, Classification, Dasymetric)
  • Discuss advantages and disadvantages of various data classification methods for choropleth mapping, including equal interval, quantiles, mean-standard deviation, natural breaks, and “optimal” methods
  • Demonstrate how different classification schemes produce very different maps from a single set of interval- or ratio-level data
  • Write algorithms to perform equal interval, quantiles, mean-standard deviation, natural breaks, and “optimal” classification for choropleth mapping
CV-09 - Color Theory

Color is the result of the visual perception of an energy source. It is described by its physical characteristics, mainly as a tridimensional variable modeled into a color space. Online tools exist to facilitate the use of color schemes to design a color palette, for artists, web designers, statisticians, etc. Colors in maps and visualizations must be combined to promote the visual hierarchy and harmony, balancing legibility, perceptual processing, and aesthetics. Color is a powerful visual variable and requires understanding the perception of color relationships. Existing color schemes are very useful to select a suitable color palette. As color is not experienced similarly across all map readers, issues about real-world connotations, conventions, specific color contrasts, and adaptation to color visual deficiencies and devices, are also to be taken into account when designing a color palette. This entry describes the main guidelines regarding color theory and related design practices as applied to map or geovisualization design.

CV-07 - Visual Hierarchy and Layout

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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