A cartography design studio creates unique map skins for a more aesthetically pleasing online experience. 

No one can really debate the functionality of Google Maps, nor doubt its engine power, but the question of its graphic design is another matter entirely. Yet, it’s leagues ahead of OpenStreetMap (OSM) and further still ahead of the other “competition” (Bing Maps) – that is, until now. Stamen Design has developed unique map skins which make OSM the most aesthetically pleasing digital maps available.

With three different styles, including Toner and Watercolor options, Stamen Maps add a sheen to OSM that had not previously existed before, turning a standard (i.e. unpretty) interface into a graphically subtle, yet sumptuous medium of transport. The high-contrast black and white Toner maps of New York, for example, embody the city’s moodier, pulp representation in film noir, comic books, and serials. The watercolor mode renders the rational planning of cities inexact and even “warm”, nullifying the precision of the grid as amorphous city blocks bleed into one another and the edges of bridges and infrastructure are reduced to squiggles. There’s also Terrain, for all those nostalgic for the good old days of MapQuest, which, funnily enough, has embraced open-source mapping with data retrieved from OSM. Best of all, the overlays are all Creative Commons-licensed, meaning that they can be used and integrated on any website.

Toner
Watercolor
Terrain

This post originally appeared on Architizer, an Atlantic partner site.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    You Can’t Design Bike-Friendly Cities Without Considering Race and Class

    Bike equity is a powerful tool for reducing inequality. Too often, cycling infrastructure is tailored only to wealthy white cyclists.

  2. Transportation

    With Trains Like Schwebebahn, No Wonder Germans Love Public Transit

    Infrastructure like this makes it clear why Germany continues to produce enthusiasm for public transit, generation after generation.

  3. Life

    The Town Where Retirees Can’t Retire

    In fast-aging pockets of rural America, older residents are going back to work. But not always because they need the money.

  4. A photo of a visitor posing for a photo with Elvis in downtown Nashville
    Perspective

    Cities: Don’t Fall in the Branding Trap

    From Instagram stunts to Edison bulbs, why do so many cities’ marketing plans try to convince people that they’re exactly like somewhere else?

  5. A man sleeps in his car.
    Equity

    Finding Home in a Parking Lot

    The number of unsheltered homeless living in their cars is growing. Safe Parking programs from San Diego to King County are here to help them.