Maps are the primary tools whereby spatial relationships and also geographic data space visualized. Maps as such become crucial documents. There are several vital elements that have to be had each time a map is created in order to help the viewer in understanding the interactions of that map and also to record the source of the geographic information used.

You are watching: 5 basic elements of a map

What room the components of a map?

Numbered listed below are descriptions of cartographic facets that are commonly found on a map layout. Part maps have actually all eight aspects while various other maps might only contain a couple of of them.

1. Data Frame

The data structure is the section of the map that screens the data layers. This section is the most important and main focus that the map document. In the example presented at the finish of this article, the data frame includes fire background for the ar of Topanga.

A sample map mirroring the different elements in a map layout.

2. Legend

The legend serves as the decoder because that the symbology in the data frame. Therefore, the is additionally commonly known as the key. Explanation detailing any kind of color schemata, symbology or categorization is described here. In the legend below, the fire history schemata has actually been categorized with a graduating color scheme. The legend details i beg your pardon colors describe which years. Without the legend, the color scheme ~ above the map would certainly make no sense to the viewer. The legend tells the viewer that the lighter the color, the longer the last recorded day of fire has been.


3. Title

The location is important because it instantly gives the viewer a succinct description of the subject issue of the map. The location “Fire background in Topanga, California” easily tells the viewer the subject matter and location of the data.

4. North Arrow

The function of the north arrowhead is for orientation. This enables the viewer to determine the direction the the map as it relates to due north. Many maps tend to it is in oriented so the due north faces the peak of the page. There room exceptions to this and also having the phibìc arrow permits the viewer to understand which direction the data is oriented. Come learn much more about once to usage a north Arrow, check out “To North arrow or no to north Arrow“.


5. Scale

The scale explains the relationship of the data frame level to the genuine world. The summary is a ratio. This can be displayed either as a unit to unit or together one measure to one more measurement. Because of this a scale mirroring a 1:10,000 scale way that every one record map unit to represent 10,000 real civilization units. For instance 1:10,000 in inches method that a measure up of one customs on the map equates to 10,000 inch in real life. The second technique of portraying scale is a comparison with different unit types. For example, 1″:100′ method that every inch measure on the file map represents 100 feet in the actual world. This ratio is the exact same as 1:1200 (1 foot = 12 inches). In enhancement to text representation as explained above, the ratio can be shown graphically in the type of a scale bar. Maps that space not to scale tend have actually have a “N.T.S” notation which represents “Not to scale.”


6. Citation

The citation part of a map constitutes the metadata that the map. This is the area where explanatory data around the data sources and currency, projection information and also any caveats are placed. In the instance below, the citation speak the resource and date of the data. Citations assist the viewer recognize the usage of the map for their very own purposes.


Other elements such as a border (7) and inset map (8) have the right to be placed on the map to further assist the viewer.

See more: What Is The Meaning Of Lego Definition & Meaning, Lego English Definition And Meaning

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Article an initial written: January 23, 2000. Critical Updated: September 13, 2011.

For an ext information around the ar of map make visit thecartographic sources pageand read the article, “Ten points to think about When do a Map.”

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tags Cartography, data frame, legend, map elements, map scale, metadata, north arrow, scalebar go into your email to receive the weekly GIS Lounge newsletter: