A-Z of cartography

During June and July 2018 we’ll be bringing you the #AZCartography from our GeoDataViz team.

Starting on Monday 4 June we’ll be sharing three hints and tips with you each week to guide you through the world of cartography.

A – Analysis

Geographic data can be used to perform geographical analysis. This is often performed using Geographic Information Software (GIS) and can be used to help you perform map-based analysis, answering and addressing numerous questions about your data. 

B - Boundaries

Boundaries on a map are normally used to represent the division between one entity or political unit from another, and are usually represented by a line. Boundaries are a good source for creating thematic maps which generally focus on a particular theme connected with a geographical area.

C - Colour

Colour plays an important part in helping aid the communication of a maps layers. It can be used to help provide familiarity between the real world and its representation on a map and can make the important elements of your map stand out. The OS GDV toolkit offers some useful guidance.

D - Data

Geographic data is information describing the location and attributes of real world things including their shapes and representation. This data comes in a range of formats and can be used to make maps, solve problems, provide insights and more.

E - Elevation

Elevation is the distance above sea level and is most commonly depicted through a topographical map. It is usually measured in metres or feet and can be shown by contour lines, bands of colour or by numbers giving the exact elevation.

F - Fonts

The right font choice is an important part of the map design process. With so many to choose from, it is easy to get it wrong so try to keep it simple. Don’t clutter your map with a range of different fonts and only use fonts that are still legible at smaller sizes.


A geographic information system is used for capturing, storing, analysing and displaying spatial or geographic data. It can be used to link seemingly unrelated data, helping you better understand spatial patterns and relationships.