Design your own beautiful maps

If you love cities, then I’m willing to bet you probably also love maps.

I just stumbled across a neat tool called Map Stack. It was created by San Francisco-based Stamen Design—probably one of the leaders in beautiful maps. The tool is one part Photoshop and one part Mapbox, and it allows you to quickly create an endless array of cool looking maps. Like these:

I spent 2 minutes and made a watercolor version of Toronto’s financial district:

This tool aside, I also really like Mapbox. When we were designing and building Dirt, we ended up using them for our map underlay because we wanted something beautiful and we didn’t love Google Maps for that reason. Though we missed Google Streetview, we were happy with the decision. Other apps using Mapbox include Foursquare and Pinterest.


What a difference the data makes!

Tonight I’m playing around with map things. First, I discovered that within a shape file there is really and truly data! The top image is produced in QGIS, simply by opening this data file and then turning on the Stamen watercolor layer. No alignment needed! (But here is the necessary attribution to Watercolor: Map tiles by Stamen Design, under CC BY 3.0. Data by OpenStreetMap, under CC BY SA.)

Just the other day, Stamen released a project called Map Stack, which allows you to make similar images in seconds. I wondered if it would be faster simply to make the image on Map Stack. While indeed, it was much faster, the difference was in the data. As you can see, the data set from is far more complete that the one being used in Map Stack, which I believe is from OSM.

Not sure if there is a way to upload this data to OSM. Will look into how that works.