The last few years have seen an explosion in photo editing. In a pre-digital era, changing the tone and feel of your photographs was for professionals. Photoshop made it easy, and Instagram brought those capabilities to the mainstream, for free.
When it comes to another kind of visual -- geographic data represented as maps -- there hasn't been a tool of similar power and simplicity. It has not been easy to make maps look cool.
Enter Stamen Design, perhaps the leading creator of cool-looking maps. And they've built a new tool they call MapStack to bring their methods to the masses. Building on OpenStreetMap, Stamen had already put out maps.stamen.com, which allowed people to create three types of interesting maps. But MapStack takes that idea to the next level. You can create beautiful, custom maps within minutes, drawing on Stamen's design expertise.
"The idea is to make it radically simpler for people to design their own map styles, without having to know any code, install any software, or do any typing. We provide different parts of the map stack, like backgrounds, roads, labels, and satellite imagery, and straightforward controls for manipulating things like color, opacity, and masking," Stamen's CEO Eric Rodenbeck told me in an email. "So within five minutes you can have, say, a map of anywhere in the world with purple satellite buildings and orange roads, if that's your fancy."