When you first look at a map what is the first thing you typically see? Usually it’s how to make certain items stand out on the map that you want to draw attention to. This is something core to storytelling with maps. The importance of map symbols. This can be expanded to more than just symbols. We can apply this term to all items on the map. Data drives the design behind the map. Read up on this topic here.
Importance of Map Symbols
So what is a map symbol? A map symbol is a widely known standard that is easily recognizable to your audience. Think water being blue or a stop sign being a red octagon. Using easy to identify colors, symbols and shapes makes the map easier to understand to your audience. Increasing what you can do without a legend or heavy labels and decreasing the time it takes to understand the complexity of the map.
If a map is designed properly using the right balance or combinations of symbol types the volume of information that you can communicate quickly is huge. Two quick examples. Would you rather see a map with complicated symbology that requires a large legend to decipher the code? Or would you rather view a map that is designed in a way that is intuitive in it’s design that does not require a legend? We prefer the latter.
As a cartographer at heart we like to think that if we place a map in front of our audience and it requires further instruction or explanation we have failed in our job. How do you measure success? By designing with good quality map symbols. It’s a core requirement to a successful product.