That’s a Relief: Assessing Beauty, Realism, and Landform Clarity in Multilayer Terrain Maps
Terrain maps are often composed of shaded relief along with other raster layers which we call thematic terrain layers to create aesthetically pleasing and clear maps of physical geography. Despite that the interplay of layers is of primary concern to a cartographer, much of the research on terrain mapping has focused on studying terrain layers individually. This research aimed to fill this gap by evaluating the effect of combining shaded relief with thematic terrain layers and assessing ratings of beauty, realism, and landform clarity in an exploratory online user study. Specifically, we tested the combination of: manual, multidirectional, and ray-traced shaded relief with three thematic terrain layers: hypsometric tinting, land cover, and orthoimagery. There are five main findings from this exploratory study: (1) there was a direct correlation between beauty and realism scores, (2) the manual relief we tested was consistently rated lowest for beauty, realism, and landform clarity, and orthoimagery was rated the highest for beauty and realism, (3) shaded relief was more influential than thematic terrain layers on landform clarity ratings, (4) participant’s geographic familiarity had a significant impact in four specific instances of the user study, and (5) neither shaded relief or thematic terrain layers were the sole contributors to map reader perceptions of beauty, realism, or landform clarity. We conclude by identifying limitations in our stimuli design and presenting ideas for future research studies on terrain design.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Nathaniel A. K. Douglass, Carolyn S. Fish
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