Mapping

Cartographic design: Legends

By Aileen Buckley, Mapping Center Lead

Example of items in a legend

We recently received a question about legends on Ask a Cartographer, so I thought we should post a blog describing some of the cartographic guidelines for legends that may help you make decisions about their design.  Here are some tips — first related to page titles and legend titles, then some that are more general, and finally related to grouping items in legends:

Page Titles

Legend Titles

Legend Design Guidelines

When it comes to grouping legend items, if you have a variety of feature types (as on topographic or other reference maps) there are a number of possible solutions:

Cartographic Design Legends - Figure 1

References:

About the author

Dr. Aileen Buckley has been making maps since she was an undergraduate student. She has a Bachelors in Geography and Spanish from Valparaiso University, a Masters in Geography from Indiana University, and a Ph.D. in Geography from Oregon State University. She is a senior product engineer on the Living Atlas team, and her work focuses on determining and sharing best practices for mapping and analysis with modern GIS. She publishes and presents world-wide on many aspects of mapping and GIS. She is a co-author of Map Use: Reading, Analysis, Interpretation, and she is a co-editor for the Atlas of Oregon. Aileen is a former president of CaGIS (the U.S. cartographic association) and is actively involved with the International Cartographic Association in which she is the lead delegate for the United States.

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