One key to cartographic success is employing a deft mixture of subtle and forthright elements in order to achieve that most difficult of harmonizations: effortless yet highly informative communication. Here’s an example that came up in my twitter thread just a few moments ago:
— NCPC (@NCPCgov) April 20, 2017
Here we see several elements that help to achieve the right balance:
- Masked basemap: focuses reader attention on the area of interest while also providing geographic context.
- Gray titling: “DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA” is in a light gray color, which minimizes its appearance despite its being diffused across the legend box. You see this often with titles in all-caps.
- Black titling: “LAND USE PLAN” is what the map author really wants you to read first, so this is both in black and all-caps.
- Legend box in light gray: since the light-gray text elements could blend with the light-gray masked basemap, the legend box is needed in this case, but it is kept subtle.
- Bold colors for the landuses: landuse plan maps are notorious for their cartographic difficulty in that the combination of landuses and basemap information can make for an entirely cluttered aesthetic. Making the landuses the number one focus point was a good idea for this map.
- Polygon boundary colors in slightly darker shades: slightly darker polygon boundaries in the same hue as the polygons helps to define the boundaries of the polygons while not overwhelming the map. Black boundaries on all polygons would not have served well here.