Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Dahlberg, Richard E.

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Geography


Cartography--Data processing; Atlases; Digital mapping


The atlas is undergoing a natural evolution toward an electronic format. To assist in establishing a basis for future atlas design and conceptualization, this study examines three key components that are important considerations for both conventional and digital atlas formats: graphic composition, thematic content, and thematic structure. Descriptive and quantitative analyses are used to evaluate these three interrelated elements in a sample of contemporary state atlases. The examination of atlas composition, or graphic elements, reveals that tekt is an integral companion to the main component of maps in the atlas sample. An analysis of thematic content indicates that the sample atlases are generally comprehensive in nature, being nearly evenly divided between physical, socio-cultural, and economic topics. According to the results of a qualitative examination of thematic structure, a traditional—but somewhat predictable— structural arrangement is firmly established in the state atlas sample. This study also considers the application of these three basic components to electronic atlas design. The computer environment will affect the usage of graphic elements, thematic content, and thematic structure in various ways, but digital atlases hold the potential to greatly enhance the employment and heuristic value of these design components. Some important concerns about all three components exist, thus it is imperative that atlas authors and designers formulate intelligent controls to integrate conventional atlas experience with the experimental possibilities inherent in the digital atlas environment. New and innovative research opportunities may ultimately help to refine the usage of composition, content, and structure in future electronic atlas products.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [91]-96)


iv, 96 pages




Northern Illinois University

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