Cartominutiae: Combined Symbols on Maps

[Editor’s note: Think smiley faces indicating good, ok, and poor choices for symbolization alternatives on maps.]

Republished from DIY Cartography.
June 12, 2009 by John Krygier.


The construction of symbols on maps requires the interaction of many elements.  How these elements come together – literally the intersection of bits of points, lines, and areas – is the subject of a series of illustrations entitled “The Drawing of Combined Symbols.”  The majority of these guidelines focus on peculiar details that when done well, the typical map user won’t even notice. They are among the fascinating hyper-minutiae of cartography.

Faces indicate the quality of the choices illustrated – good, ok, and poor.

Examples are illustrated by Prof. Kei Kanazawa (heading the Working Group of the Japan Cartographers Association) in a chapter entitled “Techniques of Map Drawing and Lettering” in the out-of-print book Basic Cartography, Vol. 1 (International Cartographic Association, 1984, p. 45). These guidelines were developed for the pen and ink era of cartography, yet most are applicable to contemporary digital mapping.

Illustrations are for educational purposes only. Click on an illustration for a larger version.


Railway Symbols: Note arrangement of tics and black and white parts.

Continue viewing more examples at Making Maps: DIY Carto . . .

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2 Responses to “Cartominutiae: Combined Symbols on Maps”

  1. These don’t strike me as carto-symbols, as much as general graphic marks, used for a style guide that just happens to be about cartography.

    Though I have always used smiley (and neutral, and sad, and hair-on-fire) faces when taking notes and marking up employee’s drawings for review. It’s a great and (within our culture at least) universal symbol.

  2. Nathaniel says:

    @ Steven: As you point out, the emoticons (smiley faces) are meant to indicate the suitability of one of the shown graphic alternatives over another. The term “Combined Symbols” refers to how individual symbol stylizations can be optimized to respect the other style instances in close proximity. With the case of the railroad ties, aligning the two to prevent uneven gaps. I’m sure there’s a better native-speaker English term for this (the term comes from translated Japanese from the volume John references).