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Developing map symbol standards through an iterative collaboration process


  • Anthony C Robinson
  • Robert E Roth
  • Justine Blanford
  • Scott Pezanowski
  • Alan M MacEachren


Geographic information is commonly disseminated and consumed via visual representations of features and their environmental context on maps. Map design inherently involves generalizing reality, and one method by which mapmakers do so is through the use of symbols to represent features. Here we focus on the challenges associated with supporting mapmakers who need to work together to reach consensus on standardizing their map symbols. On the basis of a needs assessment study with mapmakers at the US Department of Homeland Security, we designed a new, mixed-method symbol standardization process that takes place through a web-based, asynchronous platform. A study to test this new standardization process with mapmakers at DHS revealed that our process allowed participants to identify many issues related to symbol design, meaning, and categorization. The approach elicited sustained, iterative engagement and critical thinking from participants, and results from a poststudy survey indicate that participants found it to be useful and usable. Results from our study and user feedback allow us to suggest multiple ways in which our approach and platform can be improved for future applications. Keywords: symbology, map design, category development, collaboration

Suggested Citation

  • Anthony C Robinson & Robert E Roth & Justine Blanford & Scott Pezanowski & Alan M MacEachren, 2012. "Developing map symbol standards through an iterative collaboration process," Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 39(6), pages 1034-1048, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:pio:envirb:v:39:y:2012:i:6:p:1034-1048

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    1. Paul Anderson & David Levinson & Pavithra Parthasarathi, 2011. "Accessibility Futures," Working Papers 000088, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
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