The Power of Icons in GISCollective

GISCollective introduces a powerful icon-based concept that enables mapmakers to flexibly shape what gets collected, and how the data looks on the map. A great example of how icons developed through a participatory process can be used on maps and shared across the globe with communities, comes from Green Map, our awesome partner in growing the GISCollective open-source platform. Currently the platform accommodates all the Green Map Icons on OGM2, while also taking the use and function of the icons in new directions.

Which icons are used will determine what questions contributors can or have to answer for a site, while the main icon will determine what people see front and center on the map. One or more icons can be used as mandatory or optional items in a Campaign. Icons can also be chosen when someone proposes a site on your map. When browsing through sites, icons can also structure the information displayed, via their attributes.

Note that you can mix icon sets on a single map, too!

Here is a detailed walk-through of how to use icons to define your map data.

First steps

If you are starting a new mapping project and want to define your icons, the first step is to add an Icon set. The set will contain your icons and allow you to apply a coherent styling to them. You add a set from + -> Icon set in the menu.

The next step is to add an Icon to your set. From + -> Icon you get to the Add page for the icon, where you choose the set it will be part of, and provide the core info for the icon. For the icon image, use the .SVG format, which will ensure you won’t have pixelated or blurry icons. You can also simply reuse an existing icon image from a different set, by setting a parent icon.

If the main use of icons will be to associate symbols to features added on a map, and show a symbol as a map pin for you primary icons, then you are ready to use them. You can start using the icons on maps by selecting the icon set on a map’s edit page. However, if you’d like to collect data by asking contributors specific questions, and set personalized styles for the icons, the icon edit page is where you configure that.

After adding the icon, you get to the edit page, where two main option categories are available: attributes and styles. Attributes add questions when selecting icons; styles determine how it looks as a primary icon on the map. Keep in mind the attributes will be applied whenever this icon is used.

Setting attributes

Optional: Define the Icon Attribute to collect additional data

Click on the + attribute button in the attributes section to add a new attribute for the icon. Now you will need to fill in a few fields for the attribute:

  • The name of the attribute is mandatory. It’s usually a short name that helps you uniquely identify that attribute.
  • The display name can be used if you want to present a longer question or sentence to people who propose a site or fill in a Campaign form. If you don’t set a value for it, the display name will coincide with the name.
  • Use the help message if you want to provide further guidance for setting a valid value for the attribute. This will be displayed under the display name.
  • Set the type of attribute to define what type of input you expect to get for that attribute. You may expect a text, number, a true/false choice, or maybe you want to provide specific options people will choose from.
  • Toggle is private to make the attribute responses private or public. If an attribute is private, then contributors will be able to fill it in, but that attribute value will not be displayed publicly once the site is created. This is a good option if you would like to collect some sensitive data that needs privacy protection, or data you would like to collect and keep private. Only the team members for the map will be able to access the attribute value.
  • There is also an is required toggle, which makes the attribute mandatory for contributors. This means they are not able to submit to a Campaign, or propose a site which uses that icon, without filling in a value for the attribute.
The defined attribute is displayed in a Campaign

You can add as many attributes as you want for an icon. When that icon will be used in a Campaign, or added to a site, its attributes will be available. You can also arrange the attributes in the order you want them to appear for contributors to fill in.

Setting styles

A Green Map showcasing different stylings that indicate routes (lines) and areas (polygons)

By default, your icon inherits the styles from the icon set. If you would like to set individual styles for a certain icon, you can do that in the styles section. You can define the icon border on the map, its background, size, shape, and other properties. You can also define different styles of an icon for points, lines and polygons. The same options are available at the icon set level, if you would like to keep all your icons in the set consistent. Note that the colors, weights, titles and parent icons were all carefully selected to assure readability and harmony with the Green Map Icon set.

Here is an example map showcasing different styles created by Green Map.

The flexibility that comes with icon attributes and styles means you can collect and display your map data unrestricted by rigid data schemas, and you can adapt it on the go. Start personalizing your map data now and let us know how it works for you!

You can try out these features on our SaaS instance at

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