How to make a distance scale for the Sketch Route Map

Drawing a distance scale on a map
Drawing a scale bar

Q: In the Sketch a Route Map assignment, there is a specification for drawing a box on the map for scale.  Do you mind offering some clarity on this?

The map should have a scale to give an idea of the general distances shown.  A rough estimates for distance is fine, it just has to be there so people get an idea if they are walking 1 mile or 5 miles or 10. Some approximation is fine because the purpose of the map is to give someone an idea of how much distance the route will take. As long as you’re in the right units of scale, it should be fine.

I have in mind something like the above picture.

So, you might put a line somewhere that says “X inch =Y ft” so people get an impression of how far a walk it is.

It doesn’t have to be exact, but should be in the ballpark (on the order of magnitude) of the actual distance). Measure a “unit length” (such as an inch) on your map and find the physical distance in feet or meters or miles using google maps. your car, or another type of ruler. You might choose two places on your map and then go to google and determine how much distance that is.  Or you can measure that length in paces and then multiply by how long your pace length is.  Then write the conversion scale on your map, using a ruler somewhere obvious.

Q. What are some hints to making my map?

Before you start drawing your map, write down all the items you think the viewer will need to known about the area. Then, sort them based on relevance, keep in mind the purpose of your map. As you giving directions to a location, figure out what the most important details, such as which roads or buildings or landmarks are decision or confirmation points. How big of a physical area should your map be focused on? This will also help you decide on the scale, and will determine how much detail you can include in your map. For example, if you’re showing a larger area for driving directions across states, then you will have to be less detailed due to the scale of your final map.  On a spare sheet of paper, create a thumbnail with essential elements to figure out the general orientation and location of the path for your map. 

Then, use a large sketchbook for this assignment.  Landmark markers, writing, and aesthetician’s path lines will take up space. Small details close together will make it look very cluttered and hard to read. Make it easy on yourself by penciling in your map in as large an area as possible. Add in the essential details first (decision points, road names, landmarks) and put those in. Once you’ve laid everything out, you can use colored markers to decide on your color scheme.  

Don’t forget to use a title.    A title can be at the top or bottom of the map, or even the top of a legend. It can be a single line or have a subtitle to further refine the context of the map. 

Speaking of the legend, you definitely want to add a map legend. Your map will have different road types, various landmarks, labels, markers, and more.  What kind of icons will you use to represent buildings, stop signs, benches, etc?  A map legend is how your audience will interpret the styling you have used to create these various map features. The legend should be placed in one of the four corners of your map to make it easy to find.

Include a compass. A compass or an icon that indicates north will provide the user with a source of direction. This map feature should be simple, but easy to find on your map, and should be located in one of the four corners of your map. Make sure your compass direction is oriented correctly.

Don’t forget to add a scale bar to your map.   A scale bar gives the viewer reference for distance, so you will want to be as accurate as possible. See the answer above for how to make one easily. It doesn’t have to be exact, but should help a person using your map a reasonable approximation of the distance so they can plan their trip accordingly.

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