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Contour labels; scattered or inline?

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#1
David Medeiros

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I'm getting ready to label the index contours on a new park map (sample below) and am unsure of the best placement. Imhof suggests scattering as opposed to a label ladder that goes up the slope in a line. That makes sense where the labels would be close and line up directly with each other but where they are somewhat offset (other sample below from ESRI) I think it can look ok and might be advantageous because for any section where there are labels, all index elevations can be found quickly by scanning up the slope as opposed to hunting the entire map.

Any thoughts on this?

(magenta lines on my sample show possible label routes, I have about 10 of these label ramps scattered across the map)

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#2
Charles Syrett

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I conform to the traditional point of view (which Imhof does as well), that you place contour labels in places where a reader can find them easily, and also such that there's a minimal amount of counting of contours in order to figure out the elevation of any particular contour. Implications of this are:

1. No contour labels are upside down. In other words, ignore the nonsensical "rule" about numbers reading "uphill".

2. In some places, an intermediate contour should be labeled, if that's what helps the reader to determine elevation. In other words, ignore the nonsensical "rule" about only index contours being labeled.

3. Anywhere a reader may look, it should be easy to find a contour label, and to read it. In other words, ignore the nonsensical "rule" about stacking labels in any sort of ladder – unless this happens to be what works best in a particular situation.

The guiding principle here is ease of reader comprehension, rather than rules. B)

Charles Syrett
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#3
David Medeiros

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So you would distribute labels throughout the map and not necessarily near each other? I don't really like label ladders either, but I do like the idea that labels are placed logically and near enough to each other so that the reader knows than when they find one contour label the others will be nearby. But avoid losing your place when scanning over the labels this would have to repeat often enough that you never have too far to trace from the label back to your spot on the map.

I think I like the idea of well placed scattered label, just not the work involved in getting them well laid out with even distribution, good visibility and good representation. :P

On label direction I was actually going to go with labels reading uphill. Imhof seems to suggest either is ok, though he notes that Switzerland adopted the right read up style to minimize visual complexity. I suppose this is preferable as long as the terrain direction is not ambiguous. In my case there sill be a light hill shade under the contours so perhaps read uphill is not needed.

Thanks for the input Charles.

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#4
Charles Syrett

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I think I like the idea of well placed scattered label, just not the work involved in getting them well laid out with even distribution, good visibility and good representation. :P


If you actually try doing this, I think you'll find that it's an enjoyable cartographic activity, and not really like work at all. You have to "be the reader". You have to get right into your map, with all of the details surrounding you. For me, that's "map bliss" – certainly a lot more than the program-y stuff we're all expected to do nowadays to avoid actually doing hands-on map work! :)

Charles Syrett
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http://www.mapgraphics.com

#5
David Medeiros

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I think I like the idea of well placed scattered label, just not the work involved in getting them well laid out with even distribution, good visibility and good representation. :P


If you actually try doing this, I think you'll find that it's an enjoyable cartographic activity, and not really like work at all. You have to "be the reader". You have to get right into your map, with all of the details surrounding you. For me, that's "map bliss" – certainly a lot more than the program-y stuff we're all expected to do nowadays to avoid actually doing hands-on map work! :)

Charles Syrett
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http://www.mapgraphics.com


Hey that sounds like something I would say! ;)

Yeah, I just need to get started, but didn't want to begin a process without having aired out the options first. When I look at the map and try to think about where to start labeling contours I get a little overwhelmed without a guide or rule to start with. This is one of the reasons I always tell people laying type is the hardest part of making a map; most of the stuff on a map has to go where it is since these are features in the real world, not so for labels. Laying type is much less constrained by feature location so there's a lot more decision making to do. And with the power bad labeling has to ruin a good map you really have to think about what you are doing.

Good advice to "be the reader" for this rather than the designer BTW.

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#6
razornole

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I typically follow the lay of the land: straight, laddered, or scattered (sounds like Denny's). I also feel like Charles, in that labeling is fun challenge, albeit time consuming. However, the payoffs for a properly placed label is ten-fold.

Enjoy,
kru
"Ah, to see the world with the eyes of the gods is geography--to know cities and tribes, mountains and rivers, earth and sea, this is our gift."
Strabo 22AD




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