Designing Japanese Map
Since 2010 to 2012, i was leading the map design for japan.
Japan, in full contrast
Japan, attracts every one from many uniqle perspective: from manga to zen garden, from humble capsule hotel to ultra-sophisticated sushi experience. beyond that, that country has many unique challenge in design. Landmark based orientation (as 90% of the roads doesn't has a name), nested block address system, 4 script in langauge, ultra dense metropolitian areas, most advanced transit system.
Japan, unique design challenge
Fully understand the problem is more important than a "solution", I took this rare opportunity to travel across the country: from Roppongi Hill where the Google office located to the tea growing farms in the country side. I took as much various type of transportation (including many beautiful hikes) as possible to get around. Together with my UX researcher partner, we went into people's home, to see how they live, to listen to their stories, to understand their actual needs.
once the problem become clearer and clearer, finding the design direction become naturally and instinctively.
Design result, before and after
The Google Japan map tile design is intended to provide users with a readable, beautiful map that also helps people quickly find the geographic information they seek. The design has the goal of providing more relevant information to users, while at the same time making the map clearer and visually easier to read. We refined the visual language used to present multi-faceted information on the map, and also defined the typography, colors, iconography, and line elements to reflect the needs of both local and international users.
Within one year of the launch of the new map, Google maps became the number one online mapping service from the 4th place. 2011, we were honored by Good design award in Japan. As designer, designing maps for japan was an intensive Exercise: how to handle the ultra-density of information, how to use landmark based orientation. All these learnings later has been circulated back to global design language.