Military Map-Marking Symbols
As civilians we use maps to find the grocery store, or frozen yogurt, or our way to
or from a party. Specifically, we use Google maps, because it is the best, as informed by
Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell. Modern maps are often taken for granted as we use
them daily for planning and organizing tours, trips, & travel. We use maps to help us plan
our route efficiently & skip the detours. Maps today mark restaurants, motels, spa’s,
shopping districts, bathrooms, and other commercial areas. The military uses maps for
similar purposes, but often to impose on those types of areas.
Military map-marking symbols are ways military personnel communicate with
one another, give orders, and plan attacks. Today, since we are in a relatively peaceful
time, there is a large group of allies called NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization, that has consolidated these symbols and made them universal for many
countries to understand, and use.
In my report I will be discussing these universal symbols, the meaning behind
them, how they are used, and their significance to designers. To fully understand how and
why these symbols were developed, first it is important to understand NATO.
NATO was formed in 1949 with the intent of joining forces in defense against an attack
from Soviet Russia, who was developing dangerous weapons, and communism. At first,
NATO was solely a political organization, however a military structure was developed in
response to the Korean War, fearing possible communist communion with Soviet Russia.
In order to coordinate units, supplies, and vehicles, NATO developed a symbol system to
use on maps, the most recent update publicized in December of 1999, called APP-6A.
“APP-6A” outlines symbol hierarchy that defines unit size, type of unit, movement,
boundaries, obstacles, and friendly and enemy equipment. When developing the symbol
set, they had to take into consideration that there were many different languages spoken
in NATO, and that the symbol set must be universally understood, using pictographs that
represent the same thing across cultures. Therefore the symbols are combinations of
elementary glyphs, that use simple composition rules. They were created with the intent
that any one could reproduce the simple line work, and the ideas they represented would
be understood across countries that speak different languages.