Characteristics of an Effective Map Checklist

Characteristics of an Effective Map Checklist

Purpose and Clarity

  • The map has a well-defined purpose; you know why it is needed and how it will be used.
  • The title is concise but descriptive.
  • All of the required map parts are included:
    • Legend*
    • Scale bar*
    • North arrow*
    • Disclaimer
    • Sources

* (May not be needed for a mapographic product)


  • The base map shows necessary information only; the level of detail is appropriate for the purpose and size of the map.
  • Base map components are sized appropriately for the scale of the map.
  • Symbols are simple and easy to interpret.
  • Symbols are not crowded.
  • Labels are legible, sensibly placed, and only included as necessary for the purpose of the map.
  • The legend layout is clean and intuitive; the container is shaped to keep column groups from being split into multiple columns; no unnecessary or obvious information is included.

Color, Contrast, and Accessibility

Up to 8% of men and 0.5-1% of women are estimated to have some Color Vision Deficiency. View the Data Visualization Accessibility Checklist for more information.

  • Contrast is used to highlight the key message of the map.
  • Colors are not excessively bright or saturated.
  • There are no large red or black areas that tend to consume excess ink resources if printed in the field.
  • Symbol classes are easily distinguished from each other by shape and size rather than just by color.
  • Symbols are visible over all background colors.
  • Colors are distinguishable when viewed through a Color Vision Deficiency (CVD) simulator phone app such as Chromatic Vision Simulator available for Android and iPhone, or Coblis Color Blindness Simulator on your desktop.
  • The map makes sense when viewed or printed in greyscale.

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