Wayfinding and map creation…a different perspective (Part 1)

On a recent project, one of my tasks was to help create wayfinding maps for a city centre. During my three years working as an information designer I have only ever drawn diagrammatic maps of buildings and never map information based on geographical data. The only time I had ever drawn a city map was back at university when I traced every street and key buildings in Illustrator. So when I was first given the task, I wasn’t sure where to start. I thought a good place to start would be the company’s GIS team. I knew little about the capabilities of GIS software or exactly how it could help me on the project and likewise the GIS team knew little about how I was going to use and manipulate the data they provided me with.

Mapping products and creating wayfinding maps
An article by guest writer Damien McCloud.

As a newcomer to the Wayfinding Industry I thought I would give a couple of observations I have made in my short time in the field to date. So far I have only worked within the UK and only on a couple of projects so firstly, apologies if I’ve got it all wrong……My main observation is that there is a surprising lack of knowledge and awareness of the availability of base mapping products that can be used to drive the map creation. For external wayfinding maps there is a wide range of freely available (OpenOS data) and paid for products (OS MasterMap and UK Map). This data can be used as the driver for creating external wayfinding cartographic products. By having and understanding and employing these products it should simplify the first stages of putting together any map in the UK. With some of these products with now clarified ‘derived data’ definitions from the OS, tracing can be done legally to construct the base structure of a product and to extract the key elements required.

The aforementioned may happen, but the licensing of a chosen product and the issues of what constitutes derived data and the surrounding licensing are not widely understood or known. For a project to be successful and ‘legal’ these have to be fully understood before anything is deployed, I am not entirely sure this happens 100% of the time. The Ordnance Survey has clarified these in recent weeks which can only be a good thing. By having a full understanding of the mapping available and legal boundaries to its use, dramatic time savings and so reduced costs can be introduced to a project.

UK mapping products comparison
The two main products in the UK that will be of use are the Ordnance Survey Master Map and Citilabs UK Map. These two can be used to automate and create detailed base maps very easily using predetermined colour schemes based on land use.

What’s delivered
UKMap is made up of a suite of layers, although these all come as standard. These layers are:

  • Base – Topographic Map Layer
  • Overlay – Contains features that overlap those in the base layer, e.g. tree canopies, power lines etc.
  • Points – provides the linkage between the attribute tables of UKMap
  • Height – Height data for all buildings shown in the Base layer
  • Points of Interest
  • Ortho (Detailed aerial photography)
  • Terrain (land heights)


OS MasterMap
OS is brought by the product, the topographic layer comes on its own as a discrete product.

OS MasterMap
OS Mastermap

UKMap covers only the London Urban Area (see below) and is captured at 1:1000 scale.

UKMap 1:1000
UKMap 1:1000

OS MasterMap
OS MasterMap covers the entire UK, with the urban areas captured at 1:1250 scale and the rural areas captured at 1:2500 Scale.

Click here for Part 2

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