Friday 20 July 2018

Map Layout Design in QGIS Atlas

This is a short follow-up post from the previous one, where I posted an update of my Green Belt Atlas. It's about my on-going quest to try to make clearer, better maps and in particular the choices that went into the final layout. I was quite happy with the style and layout but don't claim it's perfect by any means. Anyway, here goes. Scroll to the bottom of the page for some screenshots of what settings I used in QGIS to create this.

These captions explain things in more detail - click to enlarge

As you can see from the image above, basically everything I've done here has some kind of logic or reasoning behind it. 

The top white space is for the name of each local authority. This means there is a lot of white space when that place is York, as above, but I needed to ensure that when the Atlas shows somewhere with a longer name (e.g. Windsor & Maidenhead) it still fits in.

The font throughout is Raleway, still a favourite of mine, and also free. The only thing I'm not so keen on is the the numbers but I can live with it.

I also added some explanatory/contextual text at the bottom of each map, which pulls in data from the Atlas coverage layer in QGIS. I think this adds some valuable information to help readers interpret things more clearly. I tend not to use black at all these days, and instead go for #222222 (RGB 34, 34, 34) as it's less stark.

The inset map in the top right is also pretty small but works well I feel and for a locator I have just used an off-black dot, again to keep it simple. I do like the kind of faded, cloudy white background effect so that you see enough to give you an idea of what's there but your eyes are still drawn to the main feature.

The really important thing for me was to try to keep things simple but at the same time allowing the reader to get the maximum amount of information out of the underlying dataset. But since this was QGIS Atlas and automated mapping I also had to make sure that when QGIS iterates through each page of the Atlas (all 186 of them), it didn't cause any label or placement conflicts, and this is not always easy. 

If you're thinking about getting into using the QGIS Atlas tool, I've got a tutorial here (with all the data and project files you'll need to play around with it) but it also links to a simpler, previous example.

Anyway, that's all for now. Have a read of all the captions in the image to get more of a sense of my thinking on this little project.

This is the query you use to only show points in the Atlas feature

The is the NOT query used for the background mask layer

And this is the symbology used for the mask layer above