# Geography 372 by gyvwpsjkko

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Introduction to Cartography
Lab 2 – Point, Line, and Area Symbols

In this lab you will practice using point, line, and area symbols to represent geographic features on a map of
Canada, and you will learn to create a visual hierarchy of symbols. You will also add a title, scale bar, indication
of north, legend, and source statement to your map.

Point symbols
Point symbols commonly represent features such as cities, airports or hospitals. Point symbols can be abstract – a
circle or square might represent a city; or they can mimic some aspect of the feature – an airport represented by an
airplane or a hospital by a red cross. Point symbols need to stand out from a background of line and area symbols.

Line symbols
Lines commonly represent rivers, roads, railroads, and coastlines. They show the boundaries of geographic areas
such as continents, countries, provinces and administrative districts. More abstract information can also be shown
with lines; for example, contested political boundaries, contour lines, or flow lines symbolizing the movement of
some phenomena from one place to another.

Lines may also be used for design purposes. For example, you might decide to enclose certain portions of a map
within a rectangle (a neatline) to improve the visual organization of the layout. The map legend or an inset map
might be enclosed this way.

There are several methods of distinguishing one line from another and indicating that they symbolize different
things. One of the basic ways is by varying line weight (thickness). Thick lines should be lines that you wish to
emphasize visually, since a thick line among thinner lines will stand out. Thin lines should be used for
information that is secondary to the main purpose of the map, such as the graticule (latitude/longitude lines) or
lines that have been included for purposes of design or organization (neatlines).

A second way to distinguish one category of line from another is by pattern:
______________         __________               _ ___ _ ___ _ ___

A third way is with colour. Water features are usually symbolized by a blue line, major highways often by a red
line, and contour lines are usually brown. The selection of colours may be based on a logical association of the
colour with the mapped feature – eg. blue for water, or on design factors – warm colours such as red tend to
advance visually, while cool colours such as blue and green tend to recede, helping to guide the eye of the map
reader to the most important information first. Shades of grey can serve the same purpose. Black lines will stand
out while pale grey lines will recede.

Try to keep the number of line patterns and line colours on a map to a minimum. Too many patterns or colours
can quickly make the map become visually complex and confusing. As much as possible, try to differentiate lines
by varying line weight.

Area symbols
Area symbols are used to represent features that cover too much of the map to be symbolized by a point symbol,
such as a lake or park. Continents, countries, or provinces can by symbolized by areas, by lines, or by both – if
you fill in the area between the boundary lines of a country, you will have created an area symbol. Often areas
like countries or provinces will be symbolized by both line and area symbols. Like lines, area symbols can be
differentiated using colour or pattern fills.

When you are creating a large scale map (very zoomed-in), features that are usually represented by points or lines
often need to be symbolized as areas. On a map of Canada, Vancouver would be symbolized by a point, but on a

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map of the Lower Mainland, Vancouver would be symbolized by an area. Similarly, the Fraser River could be
represented by a line or by an area, depending on the scale of the map.

Visual hierarchy
From a map design standpoint, the importance of effective symbology cannot be overemphasized. A well-planned
collection of symbols can be a tremendous aid to the map reader; whereas, a mass of overlapping point symbols,
an undifferentiated profusion of lines, or an inconsistent application of colour to areas can create a confusing or
even misleading image for the map reader. Cartographers always strive to create an effective visual hierarchy –
an organized system of symbols where important elements are emphasized (using thick lines and dark or bright
colours) and supporting information fades to the background (by using narrow lines and light shades).

Assignment (20 marks total)

Imagine you have been asked to produce a black and white map to accompany a chapter on Canada in a high
school social studies textbook. The map is to show international and provincial boundaries and the several
important cities. Remember to keep the map purpose and audience in mind while making design decisions.

Open the base map canada.ai in Illustrator. Note that the map is made of four layers (look at the Layers panel).
The bottom layer, Land, contains area symbols representing the Canadian provinces and territories and
surrounding land areas. Select a province (using the Selection Tool) and look at the Appearance panel. The
province has a 0.5 point black stroke and a white fill – thus it is symbolized by both line and area symbols. The
next layer above, Lakes, is symbolized in the same way. Above Lakes is the Graticule. These are line symbols,
with a 0.5 point black stroke. The top layer is the neatline, which surrounds the mapped area, also a line symbol
with a 0.5 point black stroke. The base map is a mass of meaningless linework, and it needs to have more
thoughtful symbology imposed upon it in order to make it easy to read. Begin redesigning the map with the
bottom layers – the area symbols. Generally, area symbols provide a base upon which to layer line and point
symbols to create a visual hierarchy.

Part I: Area Symbols (3 marks)

First, make the land stand out from the water by filling the area symbols on the Land layer with a shade of grey:
 Select all the objects in the Land layer (in the Layers panel, click on the circle to the right of Land).
 Make sure the Fill symbol is uppermost at the bottom of the Tools panel.
 Select a fill from the Swatches panel.

If you wish, use a different shade of grey to symbolize the land areas that are not part of Canada:
 Holding down the shift key, select Alaska, Russia, Greenland, Iceland, and the USA.
 Select a fill from the Swatches panel.

If you wish, change the fill of the lakes, following the same steps as above to select all the objects in a layer.

Part II: Line Symbols (3 marks)

Graticule
The graticule is quite distracting, so try moving the Graticule layer below the Land layer and using a thinner line
weight, and a shade of grey:
 In the Layers panel, drag the Graticule layer to the bottom of the list.
 Select all the objects in the Graticule layer and in the Stroke panel change the weight to 0.25 pt.
 Make sure the Stroke symbol is uppermost at the bottom of the toolbar and select a shade of grey from the
Swatches panel.

Boundaries
grey. Remember, your goal is to create a visual hierarchy where the Canadian provinces stand out from the
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surrounding landmasses and the ocean. You may also want to change the line weight and fill shade of the lakes.
Experiment with different line weights and shades of grey. Generally, shades of grey are easier on the eye than
black. White borders can also be very effective.

Neatline
The mapped area already has a border, or neatline, around it. You may want to change the line weight or shade of
this line as well. Remember that a neatline is a way of organizing your layout and separating the mapped area
from other map elements, such as the legend, and it should not be visually dominant.

Part III: Point Symbols (3 marks)

The three largest cities in Canada, Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, are to be shown on your map, along with
Ottawa, Canada’s capital. Use an atlas or Google Maps to locate these cities. To create appropriate point symbols:
 Create a new layer, called Cities.
 Use the Ellipse tool to draw a small circle. Hold down shift while drawing to constrain the ellipse to a
perfect circle. Fill the circle with black. It does not need a stroke.
 Move the circle to Vancouver’s location.
 Select the circle and use Copy and Paste to duplicate the circle. Place the new circle at Toronto’s location,
and repeat for Montreal.

Ottawa is the capital, so it needs a different point symbol. Capitals are conventionally symbolized by a circle with
a star inside:
 Make another copy of the Vancouver circle, and change this one to have a white fill and black stroke. Use
the Star tool to make a black star that fits inside the circle. (The Star tool is found in the same collection
of tools as Ellipse and Rectangle.) Horizontally and vertically centre-align the star and circle so the star is
perfectly centred inside the circle.
 Group the star and circle together (select both objects and choose Group from the Object menu).
 Place the symbol at Ottawa’s location.

Part IV: Lettering (4 marks)

Label the provinces and territories, the four cities, the USA, and Greenland. Labels should be centred over the
area they cover. Avoid abbreviations, and avoid placing text over linework wherever possible. Try to echo the
visual hierarchy you have created with your labels – labels can be in shades of grey, just as lines and fills can, and
you can vary the size of your text to differentiate between city and province/territory labels.
 Create a new layer, called Labels.
 Use the Type tool to type a label.
 Use the Character panel to change the font and the size.

Part V: Title, Legend, Scale, Indication of North, and Source Statement (5 marks)

Depending upon the type of map, the scale, and the intended audience, not all maps need to have each of these
elements. However, for this class, all your maps should include all of these elements, unless you have a very good
reason to leave one out. Look at other maps to get an idea of what conventions govern the design and placement
of these supporting map elements.

Title
The title should be placed in an appropriate position (the top of the page) using a suitable type size (around 24). If
you centre the title, use the Align panel to centre it properly.

Legend
As a rule, the legend must explain the meaning of all the different point, line, and area symbols you have drawn.
In practice, however, cartographers often leave self-explanatory symbols off the legend. For instance, it is
(hopefully!) pretty obvious that coastline is coastline and that land is land.
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Find a location for your legend where it will be visible but not distracting. You may want to enclose your legend
with a neatline. There is no rule that says that you must put neatlines on maps, but if neatlines help you to
communicate your data to your audience more effectively and efficiently and they look aesthetically pleasing,
then use them. You can even use a neatline as a border around the entire page. Sometimes this creates a more
polished look.

Scale
With a ruler, a reference map of the same area (Canada) that includes a scale, and some simple math, you can
create a bar scale. On your reference map, measure the length of a feature, such as Vancouver Island. Using the
scale, figure out how many kilometers this represents. For example, 2 cm may represent 500 km. Now that you
know that your chosen feature is 500 km long, you can measure how many cm on your map represent this same
500 km. If, for example, on your map 1 cm represents this same 500 km, you can now draw a scale bar one cm
long and note that it represents 500 km. Try to use round numbers. No one wants to estimate distance with a scale
like this one:
–––––––––
0          241 km

Indication of north (north arrow)
A north arrow is available in the Maps symbol library, which you can access by opening the Symbols panel and
using the panel context menu to select Open Symbol Library. If you do not like this arrow, you may create your
own. Remember that a north arrow is supporting information and should not be large or visually distracting.

Source statement
Your map should also contain your name, student number, course details, and the date. For example:
Star Student, 12345678
Lab Section X, Geography 372
January 22, 2009
This information should usually be placed discreetly near the bottom right of your map.

Part VI: Visual Hierarchy (2 marks)

Now that all the map elements are present, check that the overall visual hierarchy is clear. Will the map reader
know where to look first? Does Canada stand out from the ocean and foreign countries? Are the line and point
symbols visible, or are they overwhelmed by the area symbols? Is the graticule distracting? Is the lettering clear
and legible? Is the legend easy to find? Does it dominate the map or look like supporting information? Does your
map efficiently communicate to high school students the locations of the provinces and major cities of Canada?

Edit your map until you feel the visual hierarchy is clear and effective. Sometimes having another person look at

Hand in your map at the beginning of next week’s lab.

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