Visual Preferences in Map Label Placement

Document Type


Publication Date



Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences


Digital maps are important for many decision-making tasks that require situational awareness, navigation, or location-specific data. Often, digital mapping tools must generate a map that displays labels near associated features in a visually appealing manner, without occluding important information. Automated label placement systems generally accomplish this nontrivial task through a combination of heuristic algorithms and cartography rules, but the resulting maps often do not reflect the preferences and needs of the map user. To achieve higher quality map views, research is needed to identify cognitive and computational approaches for generating high-quality maps that meet user needs and expectations. In this paper, we present a study that explores the visual preferences of map users and supports the development of a preference model for digital map displays. In particular, we found that participants demonstrated consistent preferences for how labels are placed near their point of interest, and that they were more likely to choose positions that prioritized alignment over distance when ranking labels that made trade-offs between them.

Publication Title

Discover Psychology