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Sizing of Road Symbols

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Are there any 'Rules of Thumb' regarding sizing of Highway/Road Symbols in relation to map size (e.g. 1/32 map size)?

I am making a sketch map covering a few hundred square miles at 54"x72". My client, thinking out loud, wondered if there is a standard sizing for road symbols in proportion to page size. My thought is to make them easily readable, but not clutter or distract from other features - in other words, apply standard cart design principles & personal judgement.

Hans van der Maarel

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I think their size is dictated by the text within them, which in turn is dictated by the regular text conventions (i.e. not too small, not too big).
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
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I think their size is dictated by the text within them, which in turn is dictated by the regular text conventions (i.e. not too small, not too big).

I second Hans. Also depends on application: larger type for a wall display with a heavy senior citizen component, smaller for a hand-held laminate designed for college students on spring break. My rule of thumb for hand-held maps is no smaller than 5 pt for highway shield type. And I have been known to break that rule down to 4 pt...

Nat Case

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Francis S.

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I make them as small as possible but still easily readable for the prospective audience, as Nat pointed out. I'd never heard of the 'proportional to page size' method.

I usually use 5 pt Helvetica Bold for road symbol numbers, and allow about .013" of space around the number before the the outer shield line. The outer shield line is usually .006". The boldface is especially important if it is a reverse (white) against a darker shield for ink creep on printed maps.

Another aspect is: how many of them do you put on? My guideline is to make sure there is no confusion as to what route is what. So if there is a fork in the routes at the edge of a page, each tine gets a symbol, even if I have to arrow them in. Typically, on a 8" x 10" map I will have three symbols on vertical routes and two horizontally, and add more for clarity if the routes jump around.

Francis Stanton
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Mike H

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That's a really big map. The most important consideration is use - at 54 x 72 this isn't a map used in a car, correct? Sounds like a wall map, and perhaps place names will be more important than highway badges. You need to think about the information hierarchy and apply those concepts to the design. 5 to 8 point type makes sense on a highway map, used in the field - but if the reader will be standing 4 feet away from this map that may not be a helpful size. Conversely, if the highway badges are on the lower level of the hierarchy, that may be a perfect, non-obtrusive size.
Michael Hermann
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