I have drawn a map with some coordinate(longitude and latitude). What are good points that a map should have eg labels, legend, etc. Edit: The map if for the purpose of locating different objects and showing their interconnections through landmark ,color etc. The map should provide clue about itself.

  • 5
    Please explain more - what is the purpose of your map?
    – Mapperz
    Jun 30, 2011 at 13:54
  • 1
    Open-ended, subjective questions such as this are frowned upon on the StackExchange sites. If formulated well, they can be useful but should be a community wiki. Rewording your question by answering Mapperz comment would make it a more specific and focused and a better overall question.
    – Sean
    Jun 30, 2011 at 17:20
  • What is another name for a legend? What kind of things are shown on the legend
    – user21806
    Sep 8, 2013 at 23:04
  • you can make a new question if you want :)!
    – kinkajou
    Sep 9, 2013 at 0:42
  • Another word for legend is key.
    – user21808
    Sep 9, 2013 at 2:47

6 Answers 6


The standard elements that I teach my students are:

  • Neat Line
  • Title
  • Legend
  • North Arrow
  • Scale Bar (If you use Scale Text instead, make sure to include the size of the original document)
  • Projection
  • Source
  • Author
  • Date of Production

Neat line depends strongly on the usage of the map. Many of these elements can be combined together with the legend or into a title block. Some people really like scale text, but I have found that documents get resized so much now that often your scale text can become inaccurate quickly. So, I always include the size of the original document if I have scale text; but still prefer to use scale bars. The idea of each of these elements is to prevent the viewer from having to make assumptions about the map and data used for the map.


Here are some additional elements to consider:

  • The cartographer needs to be mindful of the end user when constructing the map layout (e.g. is the map clear and easy to understand and not too busy with text, is the size of the map appropriate for it use?).

  • Do the elements within the map (data frames, legend, map header, additional text areas...etc) balance each other.

  • Avoid having too many features and or labels on the map.

  • Include date/time and reference text.

  • The map should have all the basic elements as 'ASMapper' answer has described.

  • Appropriate scale.

  • A overview map may be useful.

  • 2
    You need to have 'purpose' (what is the map for?) before considering layout.
    – Mapperz
    Jun 30, 2011 at 19:05

Look at the sidebar for your post, there are several links that will give you some visual keys...

Examples of beautiful maps

Colorblind cartography

Examples of badly designed maps

plus others.


A north arrow, a scale bar, some kind of legend/key...

  • 2
    As far as I was taught in school, this covers all the essentials, although you missed "Title." :)
    – Nathanus
    Jun 30, 2011 at 20:15
  • @ASPMapper Short and sweet +1
    – kinkajou
    Jul 4, 2011 at 14:55

Besides all the great stuff artwork21 and ASPMapper said, I think there is one good general advice I can give, and artwork21 touched it in his first point.

Have a talk with the customer\end user to make sure you understand what he needs.

It works both ways - sometimes he asks for something he doesn't really need (or worse: it is something that only ruin his real needs) and then you, as an expert, can point him to a better solution. On the other side, sometimes during a talk you can reveal other needs he has (and you can fulfill) or things you weren't aware of, by yourself (such as the existence of standards for mapping of the area of expertise - such as High volt cables in red only, Interstates in yellow-and-black and such).

  • These comments are very important. What "is not" on a good map is as important as what "is" on a good map. Knowing when to leave off features that do nothing but clutter the map, without adding value, is very important. This can only be accomplished through discussion with the person requesting the map. Once this is determined, it drives which other elements, ie, title, scale, north arrow, etc. are necessary for clarity. Jul 5, 2011 at 16:44

I'm a kid and I believe that a map has to have four essential things:

  1. title
  2. key
  3. north arrow
  4. scale bar ( this is optional)

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