Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Reza Ahsan, E.E. Hegen, Ronald Dilamarter

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science


This study concerns the inherent problems of cartographic design in regard to road symbols on official state road maps. The generalization and selection of proper road symbols is considered the most importantelement of cartographic design. Relevant to cartographic design are knowledge of color science and the problems involved with the lack of scientific literature on the psychological responses from map symbols.

The methodology followed along normal lines of a survey of cartographic literature, data gathering from opinion polls on road map usage, and correspondence with state highway departments and commercial mapping companies concerning map design of state road maps. Elementary statistics were used in the discussion of all fifty of the state road maps. On the basis of the review of the literature and the discussion of present road map design, five sets of road symbols were suggested for use as alternate designs.

Although the amount of substantial cartographic design literature is limited, it is sufficient for learning how to properly design in cartography. But, because a few fundamental principles of color science were ignored, 76% of the state road maps in respect to their road symbols were improperly designed. Almost every state road map had some

form of map symbol contradictions. A common error was the use of too many different symbols to represent one particular type of road. The use of tourist promotion and increased use of insets with road strips indicated that official state highway maps are made more for the tourist than anyone else. Correspondence with the state highway departments seemed to support this contention. The ideas for good cartographic color and symbol design in road maps are undoubtedly of value to all other map types in thematic cartography.


Geography | Social and Behavioral Sciences

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Geography Commons