Mapbox Studio

Studio is a platform for making maps, and also a visual entry point into Mapbox APIs. In addition to the Style Editor shown here, Studio supports tools for creating and managing the underlying data that your map runs on.

I began working on Studio in 2019, when the team was deep in an effort to compress the learning curve for new users.

In a Mapbox map, the building block is a layer. Layers are familiar if you're coming from ArcGis, but building a map layer by layer is a tedious act of love. A basemap with lots of features, like navigation or outdoor elements, can ship with well over a hundred layers.

Layers are also a low-level abstraction, and low-level abstractions are wrong for most users. In Studio, I work by making modifications to existing templates, so I don't need to consider secondary road layers separately from tertiary road layers. I want to control aspects for all the roads in my style.

So I was excited to help build Components. Components are logical groups of layers. They have names like Road Network and Natural Features. A Component's interface controls style properties on many layers, and Components themselves can be connected. You could, say, boil down the color choices for an entire base map down to a single color picker.

Opinions about things like label contrast are built into Components. In this Monochrome style, you can choose any base color and maintain pretty good contrast for your country labels.

I ended up spending a lot of time at Mapbox building out the ecosystem around Components: sketching out and implementing an S3-based deployment system to support our alpha launch (we still use it), building a special class of Components for data visualization (who doesn't like data viz?), and improving compiler performance (yes, there is a compiler). I now work on the APIs that serve style documents, but I collaborate with the Studio team closely.

Components are a hoot, by the way. If you haven't used Studio yet, it's free with a free account at studio.mapbox.com.