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Experiments with line symbology III - Intensity

Part I of this four-part blog identified some fundamental ways of symbolising linear features to show thematic characteristics. Part II extended those techniques to show multivariate information. In this third installment I focus on symbology that shows the intensity of coincident lines beyond simply stacking them on top of one another.

In the following video, I show how different heat maps can be used to accentuate the original pattern of lines, and to reveal different characteristics of the data showing the routes we took walking our dog, Wisley, during a year working from home. And to this point in the three episodes lines show no directionality, so I’ll also illustrate how you can change the symbology of lines to give an indication of their direction of movement.

In the three blog posts so far we’ve covered a number of useful ways to symbolise lines to reveal different characteristics of the data but all the examples have been static. In the final blog post I’ll use animation to creating a moving map of Wisley’s walks.

Until then, happy mapping!

About the author

Ken is an academic cartographer and geographer from the UK, and since 2011 he teaches, talks and writes about cartography, and makes maps to demonstrate map design at Esri. He considers himself a professional 'cartonerd', educated with a Bachelors in cartography and a PhD in GIS and health geography, and over 30 years experience designing curricula, and teaching map design and GIS. He has presented and published an awful lot and is in demand as a panelist and keynote. He blogs (, tweets (@kennethfield), is past Editor of The Cartographic Journal (2005–2014), and past Chair of the ICA Map Design Commission ( 2010-2018). He’s won a few awards for maps, pedagogy and kitchen tile designs. He is author of the best-selling books 'Cartography.' and 'Thematic Mapping' and leads the Esri MOOC on cartography which has been taken by over 200,000 students interested in making better maps. He snowboards, plays drums, builds Lego and supports Nottingham Forest.


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