Legend Has It

Business mapping software helps you communicate concepts and messages to your map audience. A critical aspect of that communication is the Map Legend. I know I talked about the legend in the last post, but I guess I have a little more to say about it.

The map legend is the key to understanding map symbolization, color schemes, and key data layers. Sometimes it is referred to as a Map Key.

Keep It Simple
Over time, as you add more and more information to your map, your map legend can grow very large. You might think of this growing map legend as a warning. If your map legend is bigger than one-third of your map, you may be placing too many data layers into your map view or trying to symbolize too many location points. Consider simplifying your map by deleting layers, simplifying your color coding scheme, or perhaps using two maps to make your point.

Often new users try to symbolize more than 50 different record types. For example, the user may choose to assign a different symbol for each of 65 sales reps, or a different symbol for each of 80 customer locations. The mapping software will let the user do this, but it is not necessarily a good idea because it creates a busy map and a map legend that’s way too big. You may be requiring the boss to think too hard – now is that something you really want to do? Consider consolidating your symbolization candidates into categories. Instead of 50 sales reps, classify them by type: 20 reps are seasoned, 25 reps are rookies, and 5 reps are temps. Customer categories assigned to those 80 customers might be categorized this way: 25 commercial accounts, 20 industrial accounts, 15 distributors, and 20 government accounts. So instead of 80 customer symbols you would now show five different symbols classified by customer type.

Color Shading by Numeric Value
As you symbolize your numeric data, data with values like dollars or quantities, you may create a map legend classification of your data based on value. This is achieved by choosing a set of ranges over which to display numeric values. Perhaps three ranges:

• 0 to $1000 Yellow
• $1001 to $5000 Green
• $5001 to $10000 Red

Each range is represented on the map and the map legend by a different color shade. Business mapping software will provide controls over how numeric values are displayed, how many ranges you can establish, and what symbols and colors can be applied.

These numeric value color coding schemes are key tools for displaying demographic data by county, zip code or Census tract. In this case, you will be shading the color of a zip code to reflect an estimated population of an age segment or gender in that zip code, or perhaps household income by zip code, to name just a few examples. But the range assignments work the same way.

Reset Legend Order Using Color Code Tools
Even though the Map Legend is an editable feature of the mapping program, most of the data display controls are found in the color coding processes. Sometimes, after completing a value based color scheme, a client realizes that the map legend does not reflect the order they had anticipated or desired. To change the order of the data ranges or the breadth of a data range, return to the color code controls and adjust the parameters there.

Often, when you map Excel data or other spreadsheet datasets, the name of the data you imported ends up on the legend as a data label. Use the map legend editing tools to edit final data labels on legend layers, or to delete superfluous words in descriptions.

Remember, the map legend is the key to unlocking the meaning of your map. Keep it clean and focused on the critical elements you are trying to display with your map. Make it easy for your audience to understand your map.

Napoleon defeated Austria with the help of a simple map. Turns out his Russian map may have been way too busy. “Mon Dieu! Cette carte légende font tourner la tête!”

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