Orthoimagery and shaded relief are ways of introducing realism to maps, but each method presents design challenges in achieving consistently readable combinations with overlaid vector symbols and labels. Two studies were conducted to compare the readability of the current United States Geological Survey (USGS) 'US Topo' map series with two original designs incorporating orthoimagery and shaded relief. The studies examined reader design ratings after completing tasks that required analytical use of maps with varied map designs, using maps of diverse locations in the USA. The studies indicated that readability varied with map location to a greater degree than with map design, though design influence on ratings was detected in interaction with location. This variation with landscape is discussed from the perspective of recent theory in landscape aesthetics and preferences. Also, it was statistically demonstrated that either of the two new designs had improved readability over the existing US Topo. These studies reveal that user evaluations of maps are dependent on landscape preferences as well as on design, and demonstrate the importance of national topographic map design evaluation across a wide sample of national landscapes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Earth-Surface Processes