Throughout human history, navigation has been vital in shaping how we explore and navigate unknown lands and seas of the earth. With the invention of maps, navigation became easier as anyone could make sense of their surroundings and unexplored regions.
However, maps can be challenging to read as they comprise many features, such as road networks, terrains, elevations, and sea features. Also, the complexity increases as maps have different symbols and markings. These features make it challenging for an average user to understand. Thus, it creates the need to have a map legend.
Map legends, aka map keys, are reliable visual guides that help you understand the features map. This guide provides necessary details regarding map keys, symbols, and examples.
What Is a Map Legend? Demystifying the Various Symbols on Maps
Map legends are often in maps, and you can find them at the bottom of modern maps. Think of railway station maps, airport map guides, the map of your country, or even the world map. Indeed, exploring the contents of these maps can take time and effort. However, having a map key on them gives you a better understanding. So then you may ask, “What is a map legend?”
It is a graphical representation, usually on maps, that provides the details of a map’s symbols, features, colors, and markings. It is a helpful visual aid that interprets the map’s content clearly, enabling users to identify and analyze the information on a map. It also contains information regarding the map scale used on the map.
The truth is with a map key, the map is useful and has lost its purpose of navigating. As such, cartographers take extra time to ensure that a legend is always available on a map. Ultimately, its design should be simple and informative to allow users fully understand map features.
Map keys will not be the same for every available map type. An airport map key will be different from a neighborhood map key, and so on. Also, a map can have more than one legend if it shows more than one piece of information.
For example, a multivariate map may combine a geographic location’s political and physical features. As such, map makers will provide a legend to identify its political and physical features.
5 Common Map Legend Symbols
Map legends are diverse according to the various map types available. They are specific in design and provide the necessary information regarding the symbols on the maps. Map legend symbols represent natural and man-made features on the maps that users can identify. Let’s discuss five common legend symbols and their meanings.
- Road Networks
Modern maps often show roads and highways to help people navigate new areas worldwide. Road networks display as black lines; some are thicker to represent highways and major roads. The rest are thinner to show local routes or minor roads.
Railroad symbols often appear in map keys to showcase rail tracks and routes. A thin line with alternate black and white colors represents them. Also, they can represent train types and stations on the map.
- Water Bodies
Water bodies include rivers, lakes, and oceans in maps of a country, islands, or the world. Many cartographers use blue symbols or colors to represent various water bodies in the mapped area. It is imperative to consider the map scale to determine the size of such water bodies during navigation.
- Mountains and Elevations
Brown symbols or lines often represent mountains and elevations on the map. Many map keys implement different intensities of brown to depict how elevated an area is in relation to the other.
- Points of Interes
Symbols relating to points of interest, including tourist attractions, landmarks, and recreational parks, appear on the map to discover quickly. For instance, you can denote a museum by the symbol of a small building.
5 Common Map Legend Examples in Modern Times
While this guide provides common map key symbols, it is vital to identify some map legend examples in modern times. Let’s quickly take a look at five of them and their components.
1. Road Map Legend
A road map legend is instrumental in identifying different types of road users travel on. They include local roads, interstates, and highways. This legend also displays toll booths, public rest areas, and some landmark features available on the road. Also, it provides the map scales, the distance between two points, and other navigation information.
2. Weather Map legend
A weather map legend displays symbols for varying weather conditions, such as sunshine, rain, and snow. This kind of legend often comprises different colors or the same color of varying intensity.
For instance, a weather map key may want to indicate how sunny countries are in the United States. The appropriate color the map will implement is orange. Hence, the deeper the color, the brighter certain regions are, and vice versa. So users can effectively discern the weather of different states on the map.
3. Nautical Map Legend
A nautical map legend typically includes symbols for different waterways and water channels on the map, such as rivers, lakes, oceans, and bridges. It can also display bridges, ports, lighthouses, and other symbols on the maps.
4. Transit Map Legend
A transit map key contains symbols for transportation such as bus, subway, or train. This legend is valuable in stations so commuters can discern transfer points, fare information, and other relevant information.
5. Tourist Map Legend
A tourist map legend includes symbols for tourist attractions such as recreational parks, hotels, restaurants, museums, and other amenities. This helpful guide will help tourists navigate and explore these attractions in different locations.
Overall, each legend is unique and specific to its audience in delivering essential information they can use in navigation. So, by considering various symbols in the legend, we can fully appreciate maps in daily navigation.
5 Steps for Creating Your Custom Maps
Maps tend to be complex and challenging to read. As such, there is a need for map legends to provide simplicity and educate users on how to examine map features. As such, they must be informative, simple, and straightforward without missing any vital detail. Here are five steps for creating a good map key.
Step 1: Identify the different features that require explanation on the maps. They may be road networks, water bodies, places of interest, etc.
Step 2: Choose appropriate symbols to represent each feature and label them with clear, concise, and relevant descriptions.
Step 3: Arrange the legend in an easy-to-read format that feels logical and intuitive to your audience.
Step 4: Input your map scale, including the units of measurement you employed on the map.
Step 5: Review your map legend, and make necessary revisions.
When you create a clear and informative map key for your map, you help target users understand its features and information.
Final Thoughts: Get the Best Custom Maps With Mapize
By and large, a map legend is essential for effectively understanding and using a map. This guide has discussed its symbols, examples, and how to create one for your custom maps. Speaking of custom maps, you can collaborate with Mapize to efficiently deliver the best mapping services for your needs.
Mapize offers top-of-the-line customizations for your mapping needs, thanks to their AI-mapping tool. This mapping company utilizes Google API, so you can effectively map walking distances, create a radius, and many more.
Above all, Mapize can help you design the perfect map legend for your personal or professional maps. Take sides with Mapize today and create your first map for free.