Part B Activity Prompt


In this activity, groups will be given an example of a bad map and asked to critique the various components. Participants will then have the opportunity to show their knowledge of map components by remaking the bad map into a good map by drawing their own components on the map.



Begin by going over map components. Then, split the trainees into groups and hand out the bad maps to each group. The groups must discuss and critique all components of the bad map, based on the map components listed below. Groups will then be given a blank map that is a blank outline of the bad map. The groups will then recreate the bad map into the image of a good map example by drawing new components onto the map. Each group will present their good map to the larger group and have other groups critique their map. Encourage groups to be creative and if they don’t know something, they can always create meaning or data for the sake of the activity.

This activity can also be adapted by projecting the bad map and blank map on a screen to critique and amend the map as a collective group effort.


Title: should be dominant in size and typically at the top and centered. Use a large font and brief text pertaining to the location and purpose of the map.

Scale Indicator: the scale is typically indicated by a graphic bar scale. Other common scales include: verbal and representative fraction. The relationship between a unit of measure on the map and a unit of measure in the real world should be obvious to the viewer and appropriate for the purpose.

Orientation: map should indicate which way is north (and/or south, east and west). This is commonly shown with a north arrow or compass and is not required on all maps as north is typically assumed to be at the top of most maps.

Border(s) (or Neatline): a border identifies where the mapped area stops. The distance between the map and it’s border should be the same on all sides. There can also be a border around the entire map layout. Both of these borders together are sometimes referred to as a ‘neatline.’ Neatline can also refer to an additional line just outside of a border, used to accentuate the map.

Legend: identifies symbols or colors to denote meaning, including what each marker or line type, weight and patterns represent. Maps do not always need legends if the symbology is so common or simple that it can easily be understood by all readers.

Map Credits: cites the source of data used to create the map, name of cartographer, date of map creation/publication, date of the map data. This is typically placed along the bottom edge of the map and not emphasized.

Locator Map (inset): an inset locator map is only needed if the area of the map is not easily recognizable or is of large scale. It typically will show more detail than the map body.

Effective Graphic Design: design refers to the planning and decision making involved in the visual display of the spatial data. You can rearrange the scale, north arrow, legend, title and change the size of text, border, etc. Map elements should be: neat and clear; appropriately and consistently generalized; symmetrically balanced; without unnecessary clutter.

Visual Hierarchy: hierarchy of symbology should be used for lettering, line weights, and shading. More important features are typically larger and/or darker, whereas less important information should be smaller and/or lighter.

Purpose: all maps have a purpose which should influence the elements and layout of the map. Always articulate the purpose while keeping the audience and/or client in mind.


Suggested critiques for components on the bad map example:

Title: The title of this map is near the legend. This title is too small and not obvious to the viewer.

Scale Indicator: The scale is missing on this map.

Orientation: while this map has a north arrow, it is too big and is not appropriate for matching the visual hierarchy.

Border(s) (or Neatline): this map has a lack of borders around the map and the legend.

Legend: The legend does not have a border and does not explain all symbology on the map. The legend is also not in numeric order.

Map Credits: This map is missing credits.

Locator Map (inset): N/A

Effective Graphic Design: Overall graphic design could be improved by rearranging and re-sizing some of components, namely the north arrow, the title, and the legend.

Visual Hierarchy: North arrow is too big for the proportions of the map. Washington, DC and Dallas, Texas are also larger than other cities but with no added context as to why.

Purpose: While the purpose of the map is stated near the legend, this map includes two cities (Washington, DC and Dallas, Texas) that do not fit the purpose of the map.

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