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

W. J. Stroh, S. J. Butzler, Cynthia Ann Brewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Current federal mapping standards 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 no hierarchy, resulting in problems of map quality for database-driven, multiscale, reference mapping, such as maps served by The National Map Palanterra 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 firms, number of employees, and total revenue 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. 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 in through scale.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Information Systems
  • Geography, Planning and Development


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