The card sorting method for map symbol design

R. E. Roth, B. G. Finch, Justine I. Blanford, Alexander Klippel, Anthony C. Robinson, Alan Maceachren

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Here, we describe the potential utility of the card sorting method for structuring and refining map symbol sets. Card sorting has been proposed as a method for delineating categories by researchers and practitioners in a variety of disciplines due to its ability to identify and explicate real or perceived structures in an information space; however, there is little reported application of card sorting within Cartography. To span this gap, we offer a framework that prescribes the appropriate methodological parameters for card sorting according to the stage in the design process and the goals of the study. We then illustrate the utility of card sorting for Cartography by describing a closed sorting study we conducted on the ANCI INCITS 415-2006 emergency mapping symbol standard. Our approached helped us identify several barriers to using the symbol standard, including areas of conceptual overlap among the categories in the standard, potentially missing categories from the standard, and individual symbols in the standard that are consistently misclassified.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Information Systems
  • Geography, Planning and Development


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