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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

Unit Navigation IconTypography

Unit Navigation IconColour Design

LO Navigation IconColour Basics

LO Navigation IconColour Models

LO Navigation IconColour Rules

LO Navigation IconColour Harmony

LO Navigation IconColour Harmonious Proportions

LO Navigation IconColour Expressions

LO Navigation IconColour Contrasts

LO Navigation IconColour Interaction

LO Navigation IconColour Conventions

LO Navigation IconColour Schemes in General

Unit Navigation IconReadability Rules

Unit Navigation IconMap Critics

Unit Navigation IconSummary

Unit Navigation IconRecommended Reading

Unit Navigation IconGlossary

Unit Navigation IconBibliography

Unit Navigation IconMetadata

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Colour Design

Function of Colour in Map Design


In our information-age it is a fact that 80% of man’s perceived information is colour information. We can make use of this in the way we can direct attention and set moods with application of specific colours in maps and graphs. Colour is produced physically but our reaction to it is psychological, while our perception is on the one hand influenced by the environment and on the other hand affected by the connotations that we attach to them. Although the use of colour is considered beneficial, it does present some problems to the cartographic designer that need to be solved or at least find some compromises. In addition to the aforementioned examples, there are the colour conventions, preferences and interactions with other colours and map elements. Colours may also take over functions like etc.:

  • Aesthetics
  • Emphasis
  • Interpretation
  • Structure
  • Distinguishing classes
  • Increasing readability
  • Leading attention
  • Unifying map elements
  • Simplifying and
  • Flexibility in design etc. that help to improve map user communication

In the following unit, we are going to introduce you to the essentials of colour theory, colour harmony, the effectiveness of contrasts, and figure ground relationships. The use of colour schemes in maps will be explained separately in the intermediate module in the unit "Colour Schemes".

You won’t need any prerequisites for this learning unit.

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