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Lesson Navigation IconLayout Design Settings / Graphical Semiology

Unit Navigation IconMap Size and Scale

Unit Navigation IconDefinition and Organisation of Map Elements

LO Navigation IconDefinition of Map Elements

LO Navigation IconOrganisation of Map Elements

LO Navigation IconInternal Organisation of Map Elements

LO Navigation IconHierarchic Organisation 1

LO Navigation IconHierarchic Organisation 2

LO Navigation Icon Hierarchic Organisation 3

LO Navigation IconThe Golden Section

LO Navigation IconFocus of Attention

LO Navigation IconConstruct your Map

LO Navigation IconSummary

Unit Navigation IconTypography

Unit Navigation IconColour Design

Unit Navigation IconReadability Rules

Unit Navigation IconMap Critics

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Organisation of Map Elements

Map composition is much more than layout organisation, it consists of the intellectual dimension as well as of the visual dimension . Thus, map composition serves to:

  • organise the source material into a coherent whole to facilitate communication, to develop an intellectual and a visual structure
  • stress the purpose of the map
  • direct the map reader’s attention
  • develop an aesthetic approach for the map
  • maintain cartographic conventions consistent with good standards
  • co-ordinate the base and the thematic elements of the map

Rudolf Arnheim, the author of several publications on psychological effects of design, has noted some general observations on element organisation. These observations can help you to organise in the correct manner your map elements.
Visual aspects (as weight and direction) of elements depend on their location:

  • An element in the upper part of a map is heavier than one in the lower part
  • Elements on the right of the map appear heavier than those on the left
  • The weight of an element increases in proportion to its distance from the optical centre of the map

But, the visual aspect depend also on the size, the colour, the isolation, and the shape of these elements (Dent 1999, p. 244).

In the following animation, you will see how to avoid presentation and organisation errors, and how to present map elements in a correct manner. Map and Legend form a unit, therefore do not separate them with a frame. One special case, when the basemap take up all the layout space; you can use a frame to separate them.
If you set out a legend with increasingly large elements, place at top the light and small elements, and at bottom the dark and large elements. This is helpful for the map organisation, because otherwise the heaviest element will squash the smallest.

Slide Show: Map and legend organisation
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