The Face Symbol: Research Issues and Cartographic Potential

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Elisabeth S. Nelson, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: The face symbol, developed by Herman Chernoff (1973), is possibly the seminal multivariate point symbol. Cartographically, the symbol has made an appearance several times, but it has often been criticized because designers tend to ignore two key symbol parameters: feature salience and natural correspondence. Feature salience is the concept of perceptually ordering facial features from those that produce the most noticeable changes to those that produce the least noticeable changes. Natural correspondence refers to designing face symbols so that the overall attitudinal labels of the symbols correspond to the overall physical meaning of the mapped data. It is argued here that feature salience and natural correspondence may be treated as special cases of visual attention in relation to symbol design. From this perspective, these symbols deserve a new look cartographically. This research reports on symbol variations, explores feature salience and natural correspondence, addresses user environments and tasks, and speculates on future experimental designs that may lead to more effective map use of this symbol.

Additional Information

Cartographica, v. 42(1): 53-64
Language: English
Date: 2007
Cartography, Multivariate symbols, Chernoff face, Map design, Attentional processes

Email this document to