Map Title

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Map title is an element in a Map layout that describes the theme or subject of a map. The map title should instantly give the viewer a good idea of what the map is depicting. [1] The title of the map should depict applicable information for the intended audience, depending on how well they know the subject before viewing the map. A good title should also give the audience an idea of the "What? Where? and When?" of the map. [2]

A classic example of a map title.

Map Title Elements

Map titles are often made up of three parts: the geographic name, the layer name, and the indicator name. The geographic name is the base area that the map is showing. The layer name is focusing on the overlying map layer. The indicator name is what information the map is trying to portray. For example in the title: "Provo, UT. Theme Park Locations", "Provo, UT." is the geographic name showing the base location. "Theme Park" is the layer (or layers) of interest. "Locations" is the indicator name, explaining that the map is showing the location of theme parks in Provo.

Considerations in Map Title Design

This is an example of poor map title placement and design. The title font is too small and the title is placed in an inappropriate space, so the title fails to draw the eye of the map user. A proper map title should be immediately recognizable; the map user should not have to search for it.

There are three things to consider with titles: content, placement, and design.

  • Content introduces the reader to the map subject. A map title should be simple and precise. Unnecessary words should be omitted from the title. It is important to avoid abbreviations that the map user might not understand. Remember to ensure that the title is understandable to the audience.
  • The Design or style of the title should be plain. Avoid italics or ornate font and type styles. The exception to this rule is when the map has a theme that would call for an ornate style. For example, an ornate title could be used in a map that is showing the early history of the world. Otherwise, do not make the type style ornate. The map title should usually be the largest type on a map, and, if possible, should be limited to one line. A map title in large font establishes an immediate visual hierarchy and alerts the map reader where to look first for the information that the map is displaying.
  • Placement of the title on the map can be placed anywhere on the map as long as it stands out in the visual hierarchy. In general, the title is usually placed towards the top of the map, where the map user is accustomed to seeing titles. Also, the map title is usually placed above the legend, to relieve the map user from having to jump back and forth between the title and the legend. The rules about the placement of the legend apply to the map title as well. Remember that captions usually take the place of map titles when used in a published work like a book or journal. [3]


  1. GIS Lounge: Elements of a Map Accessed on 22 October 2017
  2. Geographic Information Technology Training Alliance: Definition of Map Elements Accessed on 22 October 2017
  3. Elements that are found on virtually all maps Accessed on 22 October 2017