We are going to let our users add points, polylines and polygons to a map. Are there any international standards for map symbology?

For example for emergency symbols?

  • Talk about re-opening an old discussion. A number of these links are now broken and I was wondering if anyone has any new ideas on this?
    – GeorgeC
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 2:04

5 Answers 5


The INSPIRE data specifications define some standard styles for portrayal of topographic data (transport network, hydrography, administrative units, etc.). See for example the section "11.Portrayal" of this document for hydrography.

If you are looking for standards for the representation of style, see SLD and GSS.

  • 6
    Dear downvoter. It is good practice to leave a comment to explain why you believe the answer is wrong. (I would say that is because INSPIRE is not an international standard, but an European initiative.)
    – relet
    Commented Oct 29, 2010 at 8:37
  • 2
    +1 for adding a resources that helpful. the reason I asked is because as a developer I'm used to standards but I have very little knowledge of cartographic standards. Commented Oct 29, 2010 at 9:07
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    Yes, INSPIRE is an international standard. It is not a world-wide-universal-OGC-ISO standard, but it is one :-)
    – julien
    Commented Oct 29, 2010 at 9:47

I recently noticed this project by the GeoVista group that is attempting to standardize map symbology for critical incidents (sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security). They have a few conference papers that should be helpful for standardized emergency symbols.

Note this also is not an international standard, but I would check out the references for the papers as they may have some citations that could suggest a source for international standards.

Actual Webpage Map Symbology: Standardizing Map Symbols for Critical Incidents

  • +1 for a good resource, Mayby there aren't any true international standards? Should change the question to ask for "De facto" standards? Commented Oct 29, 2010 at 15:28
  • I'm not knowledgeable enough to know for sure but I don't think I would hold my breath for international standards. But that doesn't mean standards in various forms don't exist. Maybe looking at professional organizations (do any international ones for cartographers exist?) would be a good start.
    – Andy W
    Commented Oct 29, 2010 at 15:44

On a comical stance... http://www.cartotalk.com/lofiversion/index.php?t2542.html 'emergency symbol library'

links to the map..

Homeland Security Mapping Standard - Point Symbology for Emergency Management


Tip: Try an guess the symbols

  • I agree. That one is exceptionally bad. Build a map with them and you get a nice, cluttered mess, too. Commented Oct 29, 2010 at 14:35

Work has recently been completed in Canada to create a national standard for emergency mapping point symbologies. In many cases the base symbols were inspired by the Homeland Security Working Group (HSWG) symbols but made more usable with today's technology. The Canadian symbols are in PNG format and in an ESRI symbol palette. For further information refer to:


Darrin Charmley


Yes, I'm currently working on this. http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/SchemaTroll_2.01 (GoogleDocs Spreadsheet) I am directly comparing various international dataset map features Including *Garmin Map Features


*CanVec (Natural Resources Canada)

*GeoScience Australia

*Land Information New Zealand

*Ordnance Survey UK



(and now the Infrastructures Symbology Reference)

*OpenStreetMap (current standard features)

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