GEOG 486
Cartography and Visualization

Designing for Multiple Scales


Designing for Multiple Scales

Another important decision you will have to make when mapping is at what scale your map should be designed. When designing your symbols, you should always take scale into consideration. Generally, large-scale (zoomed-in) maps should include more features, such as local roads and points of interest, while small-scale maps should be simpler, to avoid visual clutter.

Map of Denver, Colorodo at four increasing scales
Figure 1.8.1 OpenStreepMap basemap showing Denver, CO through scale
Credit: OpenStreetMap © OpenStreetMap contributors. The data is available under the Open Database License (CC BY-SA).

Student Reflection

What do you see at the four different scales shown in Figure 1.8.1? What features are prominent at the smallest scale (top left)? What features do not appear until the largest scale (bottom right?)

Web-based basemaps, such as the one shown in Figure 1.8.1, are often designed to adjust the level of detail automatically, as the user adjusts the map’s scale. If you are mapping your own data over a web map, however, you will still need to make decisions about the level of detail you include at each scale, as well as the sizes and styles of your symbol designs.

Recommended Reading

Cynthia A. Brewer & Barbara P. Buttenfield (2007) Framing Guidelines for Multi-Scale Map Design Using Databases at Multiple Resolutions, Cartography and Geographic Information Science, 34:1, 3-15, DOI: 10.1559/152304007780279078