Cartography: Bing Maps

Normally, I’m not a fan of Microsoft’s graphic design work. Their UI design, especially in Windows, is barely passable, compared to the innovative work in Apple’s OS X and the KDE project. It seems reasonable that their mapping UI would be equally horrid, and that, along with the ubiquity of Google Maps, has relegated Bing Maps to second-tier status. However, I suggest that everyone give Bing Maps a second chance, because their cartography is outstanding.

One thing I love about Bing Maps is the color scheme. I prefer the look of their blue roads and bluish-gray backgrounds to the Google standard of yellow roads and brownish-gray backgrounds. Another feature I appreciate is the heavy street casing. Casings are the outlines you can see along the edges of roadways, which help them stand out from the background. The casings on Google Maps are so light that they’re almost invisible. But Bing uses thick casings, which really make the roads pop. Bing’s marker symbol is also easier to see. Its warm orange color is easy to see on the largely blue map, but the value is complementary to the blue palette, making the contrast inviting, rather than stark. Google’s well-known call-out marker, which is a dark salmon pink, doesn’t seem to have an obvious color relationship to the rest of the map.

Google’s overall map design seems to be related to their colorful logo, in which every hue gets a turn.  This makes for some fun-looking maps.  Microsoft, on the other hand, has gone with a more limited palette, anchored by a safe bluish-gray, which makes for a tighter looking theme.  I think both are easy to see and highly usable.  And at this point in the game, there’s no reason to think that the underlying map data is any more accurate on one service than the other.  So for me, it really comes down to what looks nicest – and right now, that’s Bing.

Recently, Bing has received a major cosmetic upgrade, and it is better than ever.  To read more about what’s new, check out this gorgeous e-publication:

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