A collaborative process for developing map symbol standards

Anthony C. Robinson, Robert E. Roth, Justine Blanford, Scott Pezanowski, Alan M. MacEachren

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Geographic information is commonly disseminated and consumed via visual representations of features and their environmental context on maps. Map design inherently involves generalizing reality, and one method by which mapmakers do so is through the use of symbols to represent features. Here we focus on the challenges associated with supporting mapmakers who need to work together to reach consensus on standardizing their map symbols. Based on a needs assessment study with mapmakers at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, we designed a new, mixed-method symbol standardization process that takes place through a web-based, asynchronous platform. A study to test this new standardization process with mapmakers at DHS revealed that our process allowed participants to identify many issues related to symbol design, meaning, and categorization. The approach elicited sustained, iterative engagement and critical thinking from participants, and results from a post-study survey indicate that participants found it to be useful and usable. Results from our study and user feedback allow us to suggest multiple ways in which our approach and platform can be improved for future applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-102
Number of pages10
JournalProcedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences
StatePublished - 2011
EventInternational Conference on Spatial Thinking and Geographic Information Sciences 2011, STGIS 2011 - Tokyo, Japan
Duration: Sep 14 2011Sep 16 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Psychology


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