Applying Gestalt theories and Graphical Semiology as visual reading systems supporting Thematic Cartography

24th International Cartographic Conference, 2009, Santiago . Conference Proceedings - 24th International Cartographic Conference . Santiago: International Cartographic Association, 2009. p.1 – 10. – Ano 2009

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Information can be represented in innumerable ways, so it is the task of the graphical designer to identify the best way for this. Cartographic studies are focusing the use and the innovations on geotecnologies, but the way the products are published is not being considered so important, and the consequences are a great amount of maps the have ambiguous communication. Out of several studies of the graphical treatment of information in cartography, in this work we highlight Graphical Semiology and Gestalt Theory. Graphical Semiology defends the premise that all and any relations between represented objects can be express by six visual variables (size, tone/value, color, form, orientation and granulation), three properties relating to the levels of organization of the data (classified as ordered, quantitative or selective) and three ways of implementation (points, lines and areas/zones). Graphic Semiology is connected, at the same time, to several theories of form and of representation and to information theories, developed by contemporary psychology. Gestalt is a German school of psychology and its studies mainly focus on the field of visual perception and applicable models of communication. The Gestaltist movement acted mainly in the field of form theory, making relevant contribution to the studies of perception, language, intelligence, learning, memory, motivation, exploratory conduct and social group dynamics. Through numerous studies and experimental researches, the gestaltists formulated their theories surrounding the fields mentioned. When applied to Cartography, it allows the evaluation of the advantages and the limits of the visual variables applied to cartographic semiology and, therefore, allows also the formulating of rules for a rational use of cartographic language. In Cartography, Gestalt acts in a way to aid the map’s final composition, seeking to apply the conceptual, consubstantiated and fundamental categories of harmony, contrast and visual visual balance, through the application of its laws. According to Gestalt theory, the cerebral stimulus does not occur at isolated points, but in regions. In the perception of form there is no posterior process of association of several sensations, like in the retina. The first sensation is already of form, global and unified. In general, there are eight Gestalt laws: unit, segregation, unification, closure, continuity, proximity, similarity and prägnanz. Thus, this article considers the importance of the graphical treatment of cartographic information supported in these two theories. Cartographical representation is the main graphical form used by geographers in representing relations that occur in space. However, different professional areas have also been using this language. Cartography aims for clear and objective conveying of a phenomenon’s spatial relations. As a vehicle of communication, cartography is a form to represent spatial knowledge in a synthetic manner. Since there are innumerous possibilities for this technique, the best quality of produced results is desired. For such a task, cartography relies on theories specializing in the graphical treatment of information, nevertheless, these are often neglected by the cartographic designer. Applying such graphic treatments, with the help of both Graphic Semiology and Gestalt, is thus necessary, so that the information is conveyed clearly and, at the same time, allowing the relations within the whole to be comprehended by any user, without great difficulties or dualities of interpretation.

Autores do laboratório

  • Prof. Ana Clara Mourão Moura
    Prof. Ana Clara Mourão Moura
  • Grazielle Anjos Carvalho
    Grazielle Anjos Carvalho
    Ex-aluna de Doutorado