Mastering map scale: Balancing workloads using display and geometry change in multi-scale mapping

Cynthia A. Brewer, Barbara P. Buttenfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


This paper builds on a body of European research on multiple resolution data bases (MRDBs), defining a conceptual framework for managing tasks in a multi-scale mapping project. The framework establishes a workload incorporating task difficulty, time to complete a task, required level of expertise, required resources, etc. Project managers must balance the workload among tasks with lower and higher complexity to produce a high quality cartographic product on time and within budget. We argue for increased emphasis on the role of symbol design, which often carries a lower workload than multi-scale mapping based primarily on geometry change. Countering expectations that combining symbol change with geometry change will increase workloads, we argue that in many cases, integration of the two can reduce workloads overall. To demonstrate our points, we describe two case studies drawn from a recent multi-scale mapping and database building project for Ada County, Idaho. We extend the concept of workload balancing, demonstrating that insertion of Level of Detail (LoD) datasets at intermediate scales can further reduce the workload. Previous work proposing LoDs has not reported empirical assessment, and we encourage small and large mapping organizations to contribute to such an effort.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-239
Number of pages19
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Information Systems


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