There’s a new kid on the block in the Edinburgh art scene and they are doing something seriously cool. Enter Mapply… the latest innovation in custom maps.
I spoke with co-founder Scott Wood about their new venture, and got the lowdown on the highly technical process behind the creation of their maps.
Read on to to immerse yourself in the backstory of what makes these maps so special… and find out where to get your hands on them!
I love that your maps are a mix of creative and technology. It’s not something everyone could do! This intrigues me, as an artist as usually with art I can work out how something was made. I like to break down the process. With this though, my lack of technical prowess halts all that! How would you describe the maps and how they’re created?
The maps are stylised versions of publically available map data. We blend technology and an eye for colour and style to make a standard map into something people would want to hang in their home.
We take map data and rework it to suit the styles we are looking to achieve. Because we redraw lots of layers of map data, this allows us to create interesting patterns and styles. For example farmland, buildings, footpaths and industrial areas may be lighter or darker than normal grassland, so we can create texture and interesting areas within a map, to highlight the features of that landscape.
As we draw larger format maps (A2-A0), we actually include more detail so they look really interesting up close and are different to the smaller format prints of the same locations.
First we thought of local places we want to create maps for. We started within Edinburgh and also smaller areas such as Leith and so on. Locals love to celebrate their homes and local haunts. We started small and built up from there.
Now we have around 100 maps of mostly locations in the UK, but want to extend our reach much more globally.
What would you say to those who might think they’re easily created, or just a regular map?
I would suggest they try and do the same then report back on how easy it was 🙂 We probably spent around a month getting to process working and a map output we were happy with. I think we still have a long way to go until we are completely happy too.
I really like that you have preset colour schemes, each one making different elements pop, and giving the buyer a choice. How did you chose you colours?
Just toying with colour wheels and finding combinations that seemed to work nicely. The dark greens and greys etc I would want to look nice against say a Farrow & Ball painted wall for example. I also took inspiration from Pantone swatches to give some ideas, but the standard colours we use were just ones I personally liked.
My personal favourite is our Dark Grey and Yellow colour scheme – which works especially well when there is lots of water present on the map. Its really striking on our Tokyo for example.
Is this something you might branch out with in the future? and have even more, or allow for customers to create their own palettes?
Absolutely – I think personalisation is a great benefit of this kind of print production! In the future I would envisage a colour picker feature on our website to allow someone to fully customise everything on the map. From water, to land mass, road colours etc.
They could then also have a choice from preset colour schemes if they cant get the look just as they would like.
Your maps are all made in Scotland, where you are based and printed locally. How important is it for you and your brand to keep things local?
So we are based in Leith, just on the fringes of Edinburgh city centre. Having a local connection has been really useful when speaking to shop owners as they typically want to stock locally made and produced items. It’s also been really helpful to speak with customers directly to understand feedback on the prints themselves and get advice on packaging materials, presentation and so on.
I know from previous conversations that you are also keen to not only think conscientiously in the printing of the work but also in the packaging, and aim to move towards green materials in the future. Do you feel a certain responsibility as a brand to be more consciously green in the way you produce and sell?
I think it’s very possible to have an entirely plastic free product in the near future. The only problem is artist materials (such as display sleeves etc) are typically made of cellophane and green packaging alternatives are not readily available due to cost. I think it’s just a matter of time before this changes.
I’ve already started speaking with some suppliers about creating plant based versions of the things we protect the prints with. The costs are higher, but it feels worth it to save on waste plastic.
The process behind your maps are (other than the final map itself) the best part about your venture for me – it’s such an interesting way to create art. How did you work out how to do all the technical aspects?
A lot of trial and error. Fortunately, I’ve been able to partner with two software engineers who think about all of the technical aspects of what we need to do to product the work.
I come with some creative ideas and Ian and Ouanis go off and think about how to recreate some of my ideas, through code. The can also then feedback ideas to the design, layout and styling of the maps themselves, so its an interesting dynamic.
And why this method? Why not in photoshop and just manipulate found maps?
That would be possible and i’m sure some people do it like that. However, if a customer asked for a small town in a rural area and no map was available, they would be a little stuck. Theoretically, we could create maps of anywhere in the world (although we haven’t got that far yet!).
I think most people would be amazed (as I was!) to know that each map is comprised of 20-30 layers, each pulling different information from map data. It’s such a slick outcome, is that part of the fun? That what buyers might think is just a straightforward map is actually a matrix of information?
Yes, it’s amazing what goes into building up a map. There are over ten different categories of road for example, which can all be styled and coloured differently. It allows you a lot of creative freedom to try things. For now, we’ve kept colour schemes and styling pretty minimal, but are experimenting on some more interesting ideas currently.
What plans do you have this year (and beyond!) for Mapply?
Because we are just starting out, we are learning lots as we go along. However, we would love to grow the traffic and sales to the website over the coming months. We would love to take Mapply much bigger and serve many more local and international customers.
Technology wise, the first few months have been around learning how the mapping technology works. Because we arent really limited by location, we can create cool maps of anywhere in the world which is really exciting for us as we expand our reach.
Where can we find you?
We can be found in a bunch of Edinburgh stores, such as: Cloud9, Century General Store, Leith Collective, Creative Showrooms and many more. Come and stop by! 🙂
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*All images of artworks remain sole copyright of Scott Wood for Mapply, OiOi Arts uses images solely for the purpose of promotion.