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May 10, 2012

Mapping the new digital world

Mapping the new digital world

Published by Pino on February 28, 2012

BARCELONA, Spain – For centuries, mankind has used maps to mark the physical world, evolving a visual shorthand that lets us know, at a glance, the scale of places, borders, waterways, open spaces, directions, compass points and the most direct routes to get us from A to B.

San Francisco Maps old
San Francisco Maps new

Old on top; new below

The iterative mapping of the world, you might argue, has been almost too successful. With no significant new parts of the globe to describe, apart from new developments — and with cities having become hugely complex centres of buildings, people and activities — we are saturated with information. We understand not only roads but hotels, parking spaces, places of worship, museums and, on digital maps, even restaurants, bars and shops.

This is all wonderful… to an extent. A major issue now for map-makers, or at least consumers of maps, is that they may not be able to ‘see the woods for the trees’. That is they can’t get to the important information for all the surrounding detail, confusion and obfuscation.

That is why we, together with our partner Microsoft and their Bing Maps team, have taken a fresh look at maps and jointly developed a new form of presentation. So what have we done with our maps?

First, they’re simpler. There are fewer intrusive objects, icons and signs that get in the way when you just want to navigate. If you are exploring places in a city you might want to see the local art gallery or eating options but if you are planning a route you just need to know where you are going and the best way to get there.

We’ve redesigned for context too, so a very different level of information is presented to you when you zoom compared to when you pan out. Go in for detail, pull back for context. Simple, and all in a liquid user interface that provides a seamless transition from birds’ eye panorama to close-up view.

Mobile Maps old

Old on top; new below

Mobile Maps new

Our colour palette has been reduced to make for maps that don’t confuse the brain but present an orderly view of roads, locations and directions. We’ve also beautified our maps using the Nokia Pure font for all legends so place names are legible and elegant.

We’ve also taken advantage of the latest technology to ensure that our maps are viewable from anywhere. With a gradual rollout, you will see the new design first on, on (which is the mobile browser version, for iOS and Android) and on Nokia Maps for your Nokia Lumia. If you are using e.g. Nokia Drive, you won’t see the new design just yet, but in the coming weeks.

Our new maps will help you not only to find out where you’re going but also to explore new and unfamiliar places.