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#1
rudy

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Hello all -

Perhaps at the risk of starting a lengthy discussion that is unlikely to get resolved and would be of interest only to us cartographers, I have a question that I'd like your input on.

I've been having an ongoing discussion with the company president who insists that contours should be labeled uphill, like so:
Attached File  Capture.JPG   9.98KB   33 downloads
I just think that's wrong and have always thought that it is more important to align with the bottom of the map, like so:
Attached File  Capture2.JPG   9.97KB   26 downloads

Can some one enlighten me as to what the gods of mountain cartography (read: Imhof) suggest? Or, if you want, just wade in with your own opinion.

#2
GeoMapster

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Labeling should never be upside down like it is in your first map. Do you really need to label those small contours twice?

#3
DaveB

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From Imhof's Cartographic Relief Presentation (page 139 in the ESRI Press edition):

In some countries it is common practice to orientate the contour numbers [...] to show down-sloping directions. In case of doubt, therefore, the direction of slope should be expressed. However, the resulting inversion of some numbers can be quite disturbing as lettering should be upright where possible. For this reason, in Switzerland it is normal to orientate these numbers as shown in figure 97."

(Figure 97 shows the labels so they are not upside down.)
Dave Barnes
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#4
Melita Kennedy

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The example USGS maps in Maps for America show contour labels oriented towards the bottom of the sheet. They aren't upside down. If a horizontally oriented, left-to-right label is at angle 0, labels rotate counter-clockwise up to 90 degrees or rotate clockwise up to 90 degrees.

Melita

#5
rudy

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It appears that the national topographic mapping agency in Canada labels contours uphill as opposed to orienting them to the bottom of the page. In the older versions of the topographic maps they seemed to have avoided as much as possible placing labels upside down. In the new versions of the topographic maps, they don't seem to have an issue with placing them upside down, probably because the maps were generated automatically. Seeing labels upside just runs counter to what I've been taught.

#6
rudy

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Labeling should never be upside down like it is in your first map. Do you really need to label those small contours twice?

No you don't. This was just an example to illustrate the issue.

#7
japgar

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On all topographic trail maps I produce with elevation contour lines, the labels are never upside down. Where possible, I place the label such that it is on the upslope side, but certainly place them on the downslope sides if necessary. I'm not crazy about maps with any labels that appear to be upside down, so I try to follow this as much as possible in all my labeling.

I also prefer to stagger the labels in a well-spaced manner rather than using the ladder approach...but I guess that is a different contour labeling topic altogether!

#8
Charles Syrett

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I also feel that upside down labels are a violation of basic principles. About a year ago, we had a similar discussion about the "ladder effect" that some also feel is somehow desirable for contour numbers.

Charles Syrett
Map Graphics
http://www.mapgraphics.com

#9
Strebe

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As a contrary voice, I see nothing wrong with certain labels, such as contours, being more upside-down than rightside-up. They're not going to be fully upright in the usual case anyway. Nor need they be; people are quite capable of reading numbers in any orientation, especially when the list of expected numbers is small, such as elevation steps. If the orientation brings more information to the viewer more quickly, then by all means do it. You also gain an extra degree (more a 'bit' than a full 'degree') of freedom that way, and that can be critical in dense displays of information.

House practice should be uniform, of course, whichever it is.

Cheers,
--daan Strebe

#10
David Medeiros

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I also feel that upside down labels are a violation of basic principles. About a year ago, we had a similar discussion about the "ladder effect" that some also feel is somehow desirable for contour numbers.

Charles Syrett
Map Graphics
http://www.mapgraphics.com


Yeah, that was a discussion I started a while back, more on placement (in a ladder or staggered) than on alignment to page bottom. I generally agree that it is usually better to have contour labels right side up (relative to page bottom) if possible, but I think its a bit much to say 'never'.

Topo style maps are often rotated to align with the actual landscape in use rather than always read from the bottom of the page and in that case it might be helpful to have some areas of the map with contours read up hill.

Most map labels should follow the 'feet falling' rule, but contours can be a special case. Eduard Imhof himself stated that either was just fine. I found with my Koke'e map that right side up was best.

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

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#11
Jacques Gélinas

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I agree that when possible contour labels should be upside for readability.
However, based on the assumption that topographic maps are made for navigation and terrain interpretation, I would follow the guideline of placing contour label reading UPHILL even if this means placing the contour label upside down.
Why. If you don't do this the map reader if FORCED to interpret the map further in order to acknowledge that the contour above or below the labeled contour is going up or down hill. If the contour label is reading uphill CONSTANTLY across the map, then the map reader can easily and quickly deduct the slope side.

I rest my case. :)

Jacques Gélinas
cartographer
www.cartesgeo.ca


#12
jrat

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I have a divided opinion. If the intent is for the map to be used in the field for navigation then reading direction will change and contour labels that align up hill would be useful. If the intent is not that but some other task i.e. landscape planning, where the user will almost always conform to the designed bottom of page then all labels align to that bottom would look more pleasing.

#13
rudy

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Jacques - your argument makes sense to me (but I'm not happy with it!)
jrat - the map will be an online map, most likely used indoors on a computer but potential outdoors on a mobile device.

I think we can all agree that the preferred option is to avoid using upside-down labeling where possible (and it is avoidable in many cases). Beyond that . . . .

#14
Agnar Renolen

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Personally, i try to put the elevation labels as much as possible on south-facing slopes, to avoid the problem alltogether. But it may not be possible everyehere.

Nonetheless, recall when you navigate in the terrain with the map, the map should be oriented with the terrain. So if you are heading South, your map should be oriented upside down. Orienting all lebels upwards with the slope, may help interpreting the relief in areas with complex contours.

#15
François Goulet

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I've done a lot of bathymetric maps using engineering standards and the contour are always oriented uphill. Having said that, I tried to find a place where they wouldn't be upside-down. The main reason was that come contour could be largely spaced and that automatically show the direction of the slope nonetheless...






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