Eyes in the Sky II > GIT Web Course > Module 2 > Week 6 > Intro to Symbolization > Introduction to Symbolization in AEJEE

Week 6: Following Rivers Through Time

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Intro to Symbolization in AEJEE

Symbolization is the process of choosing how to represent the features on a map. The symbols we choose should help describe additional information about the features on the map. Poor symbolization leads to inaccurate, misunderstood, or even deceptive information, while effective symbolization helps to communicate information quickly and clearly.

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Download Geographic Data About Louisiana

Launch AEJEE, Open the Louisiana Project File, and Add a New Layer

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Explore the Attribute Table of the Cities Layer

Each layer of a GIS project includes a database of information about its features. This information is presented in an Attribute Table, which is linked to the map features associated with that layer.

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Adjust the Color, Size, and Type of Symbol Used to Represent Features on the Map

AEJEE Cities Properties Window The Properties window in AEJEE.

When you added the cities layer, you may have noticed that it was automatically assigned a color. This initial color choice for the data is random. Compare the color of the city dots to the colors in the other layers. You may find that there is not enough contrast between colors or that the cities came in with the same color as another layer, making them difficult to see. It may be necessary to change the color of the city dots. The symbols used to represent features in a layer can be modified in that layer's Properties window.

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Symbolize by Color

In the Properties window, change the color of the cities to Brown. Select the following options:

  1. Right-click on the cities layer name in the Table of Contents.
    right click to open prop window
  2. When the Properties window opens, the Color is set to Custom.
    2. prop window open
  3. In the Properties window, change the color to Brown by selecting it from the Color drop down menu.
    select brown
  4. In this map, Louisiana cities are now represented by Brown dots.
    4 apply and OK

In the Properties window, choose a color that contrasts well with the map. Explore the built in color options as well as the custom ones in the Color drop down menu.

After choosing Custom from the drop down color menu these color Swatches are displayed in the Color Chooser.
custom option swatches
You can also select the HSB custom color option to adjust Hue, Saturation, and Brightness.
custom option HSB
In addition, you may want to select the RGB custom color option to adjust Red, Green, and Blue color options.
custom option RGB

In this map, Louisiana cities are represented by bright green custom colored dots.
custom dots

Symbolize by Symbol Type

Instead of using dots to represent cities, you may want to choose a different type of symbol. In the Properties window, change the symbol style of the cities to Triangle. Select the following options:

In the Properties window, click and hold on the Style pull down menu. Change the Style from Circle to Triangle.
1. click on style
In this map, Louisiana cities are represented by Brown Triangles. results of triangle change

In the Properties window, choose a symbol that you think makes sense for representing cities. Experiment with other choices in the Style drop down menu.

In this map, Louisiana cities are represented by Brown Squares.
results of square change

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Symbolize by Size

If you chose triangles as your new symbol for cities, you may notice that they appear smaller than dots. In this case, you may wish to increase the size of the symbols. In the Properties window, change the size of the symbol of the cities to 10. Select the following options:

In the Properties window, change the size by clicking on the up or down arrows of the Size menu.
change size of dot to 10
In this map, the size of the symbols representing cities has been changed to 10.
results of change on map

In the Properties window, choose a size that you think makes sense for the symbol you are using to represent cities. Experiment with other choices in the Size drop down menu.

In this map, Louisiana cities are represented by Green Squares that are 8 points in size.
example of color size all new

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Add Meaning to the Symbols to Differentiate Between the Features on the Map

At this point, every city in Louisiana is represented by the same symbol and with the same color. The residents of these communities will be quick to tell you that Louisiana's cities are not all the same! Using appropriate symbolization, you can communicate information about the cities beyond their locations.

In the Properties window, change the symbolization for the cities using the following options:

Now each city has its own color. You have taken one step towards differentiating the data in the map. However, as you can see, the map now looks like it was sprinkled with confetti. Although you have given each city a unique color, this is probably not the best way to display this information, as it is overly busy and somewhat distracting to view. In the Introduction to Classification, section you will learn a more sophisticated way to add meaning to the cities layer.

Last, use the General tab in the Properties window to name the layer in the Table of Contents something unique to this project, such as Louisiana Cities.


Click the General tab in the Properties window. Type Louisiana Cities or a name of your choice into the field.
General Tab2

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Label Features of Layers

Sometimes symbols are not enough information and it is preferable to actually label the map with words or numbers. In this example, we will label the Parishes by name. (A parish in Louisiana is equivalent to a county in other states.)

Quit AEJEE and do not save the project.

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Explore More If You Have Time



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Movies on this Page

How to download movies

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Flash Video Versions

Download these versions to play on your computer. You'll need an appropriate movie player to view the file, such as Flash Player, Real Player (Mac / Win), or Adobe Media Player.

Movie Icon Changing Symbols AEJEE

Movie Icon Unique Symbols AEJEE

Movie Icon Labeling Features AEJEE

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iPod Versions

Download these version to play on your iPod or iPhone.

Movie Icon Changing Symbols AEJEE

Movie Icon Unique Symbols AEJEE

Movie Icon Labeling Features AEJEE


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