Establishing classification and hierarchy in populated place labeling for multiscale mapping for the National map

Stephen J. Butzler, Cynthia A. Brewer, Wesley J. Stroh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Current standards for federal mapping call for use of the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) point layer for placement of United States populated place labels. However, this point layer contains limited classification information and hierarchy information, resulting in problems of map quality for database-driven, multi-scale, reference mapping, such as maps served by The National Map Viewer from USGS. Database-driven mapping often relies simply on what labels fit best in the map frame. Our research investigates alternative sources for labeling populated places, including polygons defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, such as incorporated place, census designated place (CDP), and economic place. Within each of these polygon layers we investigate relevant attributes from the decennial and economic censuses, such as population for incorporated places and CDPs, and the number of employees for economic places. The data selected are available for the entire country to serve national mapping requirements. This combination of data allows a more refined classification of populated places on maps that better represents relative importance. Visual importance on maps through scale should derive from more than simply residential population, but also economic importance, though comparison is made to this simpler case. We differentiate a fourth category of GNIS populated place points, essentially "neighborhoods" and related features-which are not incorporated places, CDPs, nor economic places. Populated places in this fourth class do not have federally defined boundaries, necessitating an alternative method for determining hierarchy in label presentation through scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-109
Number of pages10
JournalCartography and Geographic Information Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


Dive into the research topics of 'Establishing classification and hierarchy in populated place labeling for multiscale mapping for the National map'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this