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#1
P Riggs

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A discussion has come up about the design for a map for publication in a scientific journal. The map shows areas serviced by public utilities in New York state. Elements are New York state boundary and polygon areas serviced by public utilities.

1. Are north arrows necessary when the map orientation with north on top? My memory is no if parallels and meridians show the orientation. But what if these are not included?

2. Is the scale bar needed only if the reader needs to know distance? Same situation as 1., no parallels or meridians are shown.

Thanks for input.
Philip Riggs
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#2
MapMedia

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You might look into the norm used in the journal in question - if most maps in the journal use north arrow & scale bar, include it.
Heck, you might include them anyway, in a non obtrusive manner, as this crowd is a stickler for details. (I include both when I make maps for engineers and
scientists as there no way to tell them these elements are not always needed. :D )

#3
Hans van der Maarel

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A discussion has come up about the design for a map for publication in a scientific journal. The map shows areas serviced by public utilities in New York state. Elements are New York state boundary and polygon areas serviced by public utilities.

1. Are north arrows necessary when the map orientation with north on top? My memory is no if parallels and meridians show the orientation. But what if these are not included?

2. Is the scale bar needed only if the reader needs to know distance? Same situation as 1., no parallels or meridians are shown.


I would say 'no' on #1 and 'maybe' on #2 (it depends... I assume the areas are buffers around certain point locations... especially if the buffers differ in width, there could be something gained from being able to gauge their widths through the use of a scale bar)
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
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#4
stroeh

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1) usually maps are orientated towards north, if you like to put a north arrow go for it, but not necessary

2) a map without a scalebar is a sketch, not a map

#5
merft

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A discussion has come up about the design for a map for publication in a scientific journal. The map shows areas serviced by public utilities in New York state. Elements are New York state boundary and polygon areas serviced by public utilities.


Stroeh sums up the north arrow and scale bar well.

But I would also say that you have to consider the theme of the map. Having done similar maps. Utilities do not have well-defined boundaries. The objective is to communicate the general positional relationships between service territories. In this case, you are riding a fine line between a map and graphic. In most of the service territory maps I have done, I have not included a north arrow or scale bar as they are not necessary to communicate the theme of the map. To be honest, I have yet to work with a utility that can provide a definitive service territory boundary.

-Tom

#6
mike

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1) Most maps are oriented north. however, if you have a different orientation or an uncommon projection that situates north in a position other than the top of the map, definitely put a north arrow. On the other hand, some map makers like to use a custom (aka fancy) north arrow as a display element.

2) I always include a scale bar.... no matter how small the map is. I'm a fan of simple scale bars, so I usually a one line with several divisional ticks and with both km and miles on it.

#7
rudy

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1) usually maps are orientated towards north, if you like to put a north arrow go for it, but not necessary

2) a map without a scalebar is a sketch, not a map


So, a map like object without a scale bar is a sketch and not a map? Funny, when I see them, I immediately think "That's a map" and not "That's a sketch." I think there are exceptions to all rules including this one. A map can be a map without a scale bar or a north arrow. It might be improved with both or either, but not necessarily, depending on the context, content, design and use.

#8
MapMedia

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If you're getting the sense that there IS NO CONVENTION on this, you are correct. B)
North arrow and scale bar should accompany a map if they are needed, but there is no cartographic rule saying 'all maps must include arrow and scale'.

#9
ELeFevre

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1. Considering the north arrow is probably the most recognizable map object around, I think they are necessary because they inform the reader of the special geographical content... similar to how grammatical marks convey context in the written word. North arrows are a crucial part of the stage.

2. I say if distance supports the purpose of the map then a scale bar is necessary. If I'm creating a choropleth map of population by state at a continental scale, I'm not sure knowing the distance from one state to another is important. I also don't think scale bars carry the same cultural weight as north arrows. At least they don't in my mind.

If i ran across some kind of visual thingy depicting the surface of the earth with-out a scale bar or north arrow I'd still call a map.



#10
rudy

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1. Considering the north arrow is probably the most recognizable map object around, I think they are necessary because they inform the reader of the special geographical content... similar to how grammatical marks convey context in the written word. North arrows are a crucial part of the stage.


This leads to one of my pet cartographic peeves - north arrows. Too often they show up on maps where they are only correctly along a single vertical line - think of a map of North America in a Lambert projection. Why even have it, especially when graticules are present? Even without any graticules or grid lines it isn't really necessary, unless the orientation of hte map is anything but north. I wouldn't say that people recognize a map as being a map because a north arrow appears. It may be recognizable but it isn't the first thing that people notice - in fact, it is probably one of the last. As with all things on a map - if it's not needed, don't include it!

#11
Dale Sanderson

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This leads to one of my pet cartographic peeves - north arrows. Too often they show up on maps where they are only correctly along a single vertical line - think of a map of North America in a Lambert projection. Why even have it, especially when graticules are present? Even without any graticules or grid lines it isn't really necessary, unless the orientation of hte map is anything but north. I wouldn't say that people recognize a map as being a map because a north arrow appears. It may be recognizable but it isn't the first thing that people notice - in fact, it is probably one of the last. As with all things on a map - if it's not needed, don't include it!


I agree. The original poster said the map shows the entirety of New York state. As such, it's probably displayed in an equal-area projection, in which case "north" is going to vary as you move across the map from east to west. Is there a convention for using north arrows on smaller-scale maps like this?
Dale Sanderson
professionally: cartographics manager for Dex One
personally: cartophile and road-geek (my website)

#12
Sky Schemer

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If you're getting the sense that there IS NO CONVENTION on this, you are correct.


On my next map, I am going to put in an east arrow. :D

#13
Polaris

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Another great CT discussion!

In addition to educating myself, this kind of thread helps me to educate clients. I just send a link so they don't have to take my word for it - and it cuts down on the explaining I have to do. I wonder how many others use CartoTalk this way? - it comes in handy pretty often for me.

hmmm, I guess that means it's time to make another donation to cartotalk

Eric

#14
DaveB

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I understand some people are taught that all maps need a north arrow, scale bar, and legend. But I always thought it depended on the purpose and content of the map, the audience, and the other usual factors of map design including client requirements.
For a thematic map of an area the intended audience is familiar with, for example, you may not need a north arrow or scale bar at all (but you would likely want to have a legend or at least a title or other text indicating/explaining the theme.
In some cases I would even argue that a scale bar or north arrow may be inaccurate at best and possibly even misleading. People have already mentioned the case of north arrows on maps where north isn't in the same direction across the entire map, such as a map in a conic projection, especially one that covers a large portion of the earth's surface. In that case the graticule lines and labels and the geographic context are hopefully enough to indicate which way is north. But if you still want a north arrow I think it's best to place it directly on one of the graticule's meridians.
Sometimes scale bars are useful for giving some indication of size or distance. Other times size or distance has little or no relevance to the map's subject matter. In some cases scale varies enough across a map that any scale bar, other than some sort of variable scale, is only going to be accurate in limited circumstances.
Some questions to ask when you're designing a map:
Is a scale bar or north arrow useful?
Does it make the map look "prettier" (without being distracting)? (maybe a funny question for someone interested in emulating antique map styles to ask... :P )
Or would it be misleading?
Is there a better way to indicate direction or scale in the particular case?
Dave Barnes
Esri
Product Engineer
Map Geek

#15
merft

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I recently visited the Grand Canyon again and they have this panorama map. What are your feelings about the use of the north arrow and scale bar. Please note that the printed version I saw did not have the scale disclaimer that I remember. I ran across several people on the trails that had used the scale bar and gotten themselves into trouble because they miscalculated the distances. -Tom




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