Symbols are a key part of cartography and equally so for maps of fantasy settings. Their key job is to quickly convey a lot of information in a pleasing way while also blending in with the map itself. When I started mapping Greyhawk I started with the symbology of the Darlene map and it has evolved from the five settlement icons of the 1983 Glossography. My first change was to colorize them, going with a signal yellow.
After using them for my first campaign I realized more defined settlement sizes where needed, and with them came the Metropolis, City, Town, Village etc. The categories and numbers got established for me during my D&E3E/PF1 era of gaming which are the background behind the categories on the map now.
The basic shapes of the symbols are still there, hopefully a bit more clear and easy to read from a distance. Especially the smallest symbols needed some TLC. Now each category have the same shape, Metropolis are squared, cities hexagonal, towns round and so on. The site symbols have been simplified and works better now I hope, along with a proper dungeon symbol.
The color scheme are still there. I really like it and find it useful and hopefully it is useful for other as well. The status colors are very useful but I realize now that I might need to change to floating and submerged colors to brighter blue to make them more visible against water.
In a fantasy setting settlements can be run but various forms of creatures beside humans, so have a set of icons reflecting that is both cool and useful. These are the ones I have developed so far, any more needed?
One of the key aspects when developing a symbol set this complex are how to integrate the various competing aspects. I tried to solve this by changing shape, base color, edge color and center symbol. Another aspect are icon simplicity, but to be able to understand it easily, but also to make it into vector format to be used in GIS.
This is a first draft, that I will use as a base when setting up Oerth GIS.
I'm getting ready for the Fantasy Mapping Show on the LordGosumba channel in a few minutes where I will present these and talk more about map symbols.