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#1
mary

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I'm from the school of thought that a legend should never be titled "Legend" or "Key" but I'm having trouble finding literature for support. A book I used in college clearly states, "You need not preface the legend with "Legend" or "Key" as most map readers know that without being told," (Krygier, 128). Most of the maps coming out of my office are for use by engineers who would most certainly not need to see a "Legend" title. My professors encouraged me to use "Features" or some other title that was more specificly related to the data. My employer would like to see more information about this before we change our company mapping standards. Does anyone know of other books that support this cartographic design?

The book I have is:
Krygier, John, and Denis Wood. Making Maps: a Visual Guide to Map Design for GIS. New York: Guilford P, 2005.

Thanks for your help!

#2
Hans van der Maarel

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Hmmm...

If you give it a title that's more related to the subject of the map, it's really going to be a title for the map, rather than the legend. In fact, if you would follow the train of thought that it doesn't have to be called "Legend" for people to notice it's a legend, it really doesn't have to be called anything at all.

So yes, in a way it's unnecessary information, and if you're short on space, you may omit it. However, personally, I kinda prefer to add a title ("Legend").

I suppose that this is, just like the north arrow / scale bar thing, something we could discuss endlessly. In the end, it all boils down to whether or not it's necessary for the map.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
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#3
frax

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Mary, why is the burden of proof on you? The whole practice probably revolves around MapInfo and ArcView 3 doing it by default at some point way back in time. It is like labeling the map "Map" and the scale bar "Scale bar".
Hugo Ahlenius
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#4
Matthew Hampton

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Hugo brings-up a very interesting point. When did we (as a culture of mapmakers) start using "Legend" to title a subsection of a map? I think it's unnecessary unless the organization on the map is very busy either in content or ancillary information.

co-cartographic creator of boringmaps.com


#5
François Goulet

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I stopped putting the word "Legend" on my maps after one of my teacher of which I have great respect told me "Your readers aren't stupid... You have a list of symbols and their description besides, they know it's the legend..."

#6
frax

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I think there is some collective impression that textbooks and grandfather-like teachers have told us, in our first lecture of our cartography careersm that: a map is not map unless it has - north arrow/scalebar/legend/etc etc. And somewhere there, in the requirement that there should be a legend, there has also landed some assumption that it should be titled 'legend'.

Because I don't think you can find it in any textbook or recommendation anywhere... can you?

I checked though - ArcView 3 doesn't add that word to the legend - so I was wrong in that assumption!
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#7
François Goulet

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I think there is some collective impression that textbooks and granfather-like teachers have told us on our first lecture of our cartography careers that: a map is not map unless it has - north arrow/scalebar/legend/etc etc. And somewhere there, in the requirement that there should be a legend, there has also landed some assumption that it should be titled 'legend'.

Because I don't think you can find it any text book or recommendation anywhere... can you?

I checked though - ArcView 3 doesn't add that word to the legend - so I was wrong in that assumption!


I worked on the conception of a geography manual for 7th graders a couple years ago (as a "consultant", i.e. a way of not paying me enough to be a cartographer/writer ;) ) and the editorial staff and writers (who were teachers) insisted on having "Legend" in big bold letter because their 12 yo students were to be teach by them that a map always has a legend...

Now, my teachers insisted that my maps should have some indication of scale, direction and a legend, but not into putting the obvious word itself...

#8
mary

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I think there is some collective impression that textbooks and granfather-like teachers have told us on our first lecture of our cartography careers that: a map is not map unless it has - north arrow/scalebar/legend/etc etc. And somewhere there, in the requirement that there should be a legend, there has also landed some assumption that it should be titled 'legend'.

Because I don't think you can find it any text book or recommendation anywhere... can you?

I checked though - ArcView 3 doesn't add that word to the legend - so I was wrong in that assumption!


I worked on the conception of a geography manual for 7th graders a couple years ago (as a "consultant", i.e. a way of not paying me enough to be a cartographer/writer ;) ) and the editorial staff and writers (who were teachers) insisted on having "Legend" in big bold letter because their 12 yo students were to be teach by them that a map always has a legend...

Now, my teachers insisted that my maps should have some indication of scale, direction and a legend, but not into putting the obvious word itself...



True, but that's a case of knowing your audience! A map made for a seventh grader is going to look much different than one made for an expert that knows a lot about the subject of the map.

#9
Dennis McClendon

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I think the saddest thing is that Mary's employers have to have an outside expert determine this question through a written and peer-reviewed standard. Another reason I don't work in the corporate world.
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
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#10
eli

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Interestingly enough, a "legends" topic popped up at ESRI's Mapping Center today:

Cartographic Design: Legends

Seems taken for granted that the legend will be titled in their advice...

#11
natcase

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We put it on sometimes, because it feels like it needs some sort of header. I mean we label "notes" and we label city insets even though the name of the city is right there in front of you.

Why to do we title anything?

1. To make things easy to find in a quick scan. Labeling the legend makes sense if you have a lot of little boxes with things in them and you wan tto make it clear that this one shows indigenous species of lizard and this one shows copyright and who made this map and who paid for it and this one shows map symbols.

2. To distinguish vert similar objects. It makes sense to label (for example) "Key for map on left" or "Key to city insets" or "Key [insert arrow up]" to make it clear which map element this is the key for.

3. To make it clear that the titled thing is an entity in itself, a discrete element of communication. If the key is really the "key" to unlock the whole map (e.g. the 30 color codes for indigenous languages, or a detailed breakdown of the fifteen different types of ground cover with annotations), then key is kind of like a chapter heading.

All this said, we sometimes label it, and sometimes not. Most commonly, the word "key" is left off when the title of the map is a header to the legend box. It's only when there is no title-like text nearby that I am inclined to include "Key" just to make the legend look less naked. If there's space.

Nat Case
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#12
mary

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Interestingly enough, a "legends" topic popped up at ESRI's Mapping Center today:

Cartographic Design: Legends

Seems taken for granted that the legend will be titled in their advice...



Thanks for the post Eli, but I don't think you all quite understand what I'm saying...I always title my legend, I just never use the word "Legend" or "Key." My professors taught me these titles were a sign of a poor cartographer - and I hold my educators in very high regards. Of course there will be times where using "Legend" or "Key" cannot be avoided. I also want to point out that I haven't just pulled this design out of thin air. John Krygier is one of the authors of my cartography book and he is a past president of NACIS...someone I think we all would respect. Cartography is an art and a science and has seen many changes over thousands of years and will continue to evolve as a practice.

#13
frax

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Mary, from your first post, I understood it as your company standards specify that you always need to title the legend with the word "Legend", and you asked for some text book reference that said that it was not needed, right?
Hugo Ahlenius
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#14
Hans van der Maarel

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I also want to point out that I haven't just pulled this design out of thin air. John Krygier is one of the authors of my cartography book and he is a past president of NACIS...someone I think we all would respect. Cartography is an art and a science and has seen many changes over thousands of years and will continue to evolve as a practice.


Indeed. I don't think anybody here implied any disrespect towards John, but imho cartographic rules aren't necessarily set in stone.
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#15
Casey Greene

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My employer would like to see more information about this before we change our company mapping standards. Does anyone know of other books that support this cartographic design?
Thanks for your help!


I could not find anything in the books that i have that specifically says that a legend does not have to have a title, but I did find a number of book that mentioned nothing about the legend having a title at all, the most prolific being Elements of Cartography 5th ed by Robinson. In his few paragraphs about legends there is nothing that states there must be a title for a legend.

Another approach you could take is to bring in well known books, such as The Visual Display of Quantitative Data by Tufte, and show that none of the maps contained, title their legend with "legend' or "key." Most, if not all of the maps in Robinson's book do not title their legend with those two words either.

I hope that helps.

Here is a hierarchical list of what i strive for, regarding legends in my maps:
1) no legend at all (my ideal but not always possible)
2) an untitled legend
3) a legend with a content appropriate title
4) a legend titled "legend" or "key"

Good luck,
-Casey Greene
(cbgreene17@yahoo)
Casey Greene - Cartographer - Adventure Cycling Association
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