Essential Elements to Include in Your Cartographic Designs

by Josh Biggs in Software, Tips on 5th June 2021

Maps are visual representations of the world. They offer a way to make sense of what is going on in our surroundings and help us understand how we fit into that larger landscape. A map can show where there are natural resources or tell you which areas have been hit by tragedies such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

Maps can also be used for more personal reasons, like planning out your next vacation destination. One thing that all maps share in common is the need to include certain elements, so they convey their message clearly and effectively.

  • Use colours to represent different features of the map: One element necessary for most cartographic designs is color coding different types of data points or regions on the map based on their importance within the context of what you’re mapping out (i.e., population density, population distribution, economic activity). Adding different colours makes it easy to recognize different data points or regions on your map and conveys that different areas have varying levels of importance.
  • Typography: 

Be consistent with font sizes and weights. For example, all text should be in a sans-serif typeface. Choosing a particular typeface can help convey the story you’re telling with your map, adding to its aesthetics and readability. Try to follow the guidelines mentioned by expert cartographers so that you stay on track of adding perfection to your designs.

  • Layers: Another key element in the cartographic design is layering information or data points over one another to provide more context. The idea behind this technique is to highlight how these different layers influence each other (i.e., population density at various levels vs. economic activity). One method to do this would be by using symbols such as arrows or dots that show up when one layer has been chosen over another.
  • Scale: You should make sure all of your elements have uniformly sized labels, so it’s clear which are larger/smaller than others, and avoid making any labels taller than they need to be because doing so will unnecessarily take up space on your page, distracting from the most important parts of your map.
  • Titles: One thing that you should include in maps is a title, so people know what they’re looking at when viewing your design. This will help them understand if it’s an area map or a cityscape/street map without having to ask you first. Titles can then serve as navigation points over which additional information is layered on top (i.e., highways vs. railroads).
  • Symbols:

 Symbols are another helpful element used by cartographers to make their message clearer to viewers. Some symbols might not have any meaning on their own but provide clarity about things like boundaries or specific geographical features. In contrast, others may represent the economical status of a region or population trends.

  • Keep it contrasting: Keep in mind that maps are designed to show relationships and connections, not just different areas on the earth. For example, you might use symbols or color coding to illustrate how a country’s natural resources are distributed throughout its territories. For that, you need to use contrasting shades so that people can understand the difference between things. Using dark shades with light ones makes things clearer; you do not want anything to blend too much together! The text should be readable from afar, so don’t make the color scheme overpowering.
  • Aerial View of Area: An aerial view is a great way to show the scale on an otherwise flat surface like paper or digital media. It also provides information about terrain features such as elevation and waterways, which would be hard to interpret just by looking at lines drawn on top (i.e., highways vs. railroads).
  • Label: Label important landmarks on your map, so people know where they are looking at. Every map should have a title, text labels for all major cities and landmarks, as well as distance lines drawn between locations. Your titles and labels should blend well enough with the rest of your map so that people can tell it is not just an illustration.
  • Map projections: 

Next essential element to include in cartographic designs is map projections. Map projection can be a very complicated process to understand, but most people have heard of the Mercator Projection; it’s one of the most commonly used today because it offers an accurate representation of what objects would look like if you were looking at them from above with satellite imagery.

  • Labeling Countries: Labeling countries is another essential element to include in your cartographic design–especially for world maps that show all country names displayed on top or bottom edges. The text labels should match up well with their corresponding boundaries, so they are easily readable and not obscured by other elements such as rivers or coastlines.

Tips to follow while creating cartographic designs:

  • Use online tools: You will find several online tools that make it easy to create maps. All you need to have is a little time and the relevant elements for your map design, such as places or roads. For instance, you can check the Map radius tool, which helps you add all the necessary elements in a short time span.
  • Use fonts: You might want to use specific font types to ensure that the text labels will be clear enough on your cartographic design, especially when dealing with languages other than English.
  • Include High-Resolution Images: If you’re using satellite imagery, it’s important not just to have an accurate representation of what things would seem like if viewed from above but also include high-resolution images, so there aren’t any pixelation issues.
  • Create a backup of your work: What you’re creating is a valuable resource, and it’s important to have backup copies of your work if something happens.
  • Consider the Audience: Every map design will be seen by someone, so make sure that what they see matches up with who they are, their culture, and language.


Creating a cartographic design requires some work, but it’s worth the effort when you can share your world with others. We hope this post will help you get started on your own map!

Categories: Software Tips