Developing Static Maps

Static maps are fixed images of selected layers of geographic data that can be printed and viewed in hard copy or viewed online as a flat image. This page discusses the steps involved in developing static maps.
  • Determine the appropriate map scale: The body of each map should reflect the boundaries of the area of interest (e.g., a city, county, or neighborhood). The map scale also determines the parameters for filtering and downloading data for the maps.
  • Determine the appropriate spatial resolution: Spatial resolution refers to the geographic “unit” in which the data will be displayed (e.g., points reflecting specific locations or data aggregated into census tracts or counties, etc.). The spatial resolution should be determined prior to downloading and processing data for importation into a geographic information system program. The spatial resolution may be limited by the available data. (See Deciding How the Data Should Be Mapped for more information.)
  • Prepare data: Data sets often come in a “raw” form (e.g., a CSV table) and will need to be processed further before they can be mapped. (See Preparing the Data to Be Mapped for more information.)
  • Make cartographic decisions: Decisions about how the data will be displayed include choosing appropriate classification schemes, color palettes, and symbology to enhance map readability. Decisions must also be made about what additional geographic layers, map elements, and labels to include in the body of the map to assist the reader in spatial orientation and interpreting the information. (See Deciding How the Data Should Be Mapped for more information.)