MapQuest Gets A Fresh Coat Of Paint

Remember when MapQuest was the online map site? Then Google came along and rained on their parade in 2005 with their dynamic-loading AJAX secret sauce which enabled you to infinitely pan around the map. Ever since then, MapQuest has been dead to me – until now.

The AOL-owned site unveiled their new look today and it is a complete revamp. Their logo took a turn from a comic typeface to a more serious, sans-serif one. Reddish-marroon, out! Green and purple, in! The new branding will certainly take some time but there is more to this re-launch than a new log0.

MapQuest has made their maps look more like paper maps. Well what do I mean by that? The color choices by the MapQuest team are really spot on. You might not really think about it, but the distinct colors used by MapQuest make their maps easier to read. Major interstate highways are blue, secondary highways are an orange color, and streets are yellow. This visual hierarchy of most important roads to least important helps focus your attention as your looking around. Compare this to Google Maps where the colors are so similiar that the roads kind of blend together.

The label style on Google Maps is a bit easier to read than MapQuest as I think Google Maps is better for locating city names and MapQuest is geared more towards a visual search of a map. For a more in-depth analysis about map design, see A Brief Comparison of Google Maps, Bing Maps, & Yahoo! Maps by 41Latitude.

The new MapQuest layout is akin to Google Maps with two-thirds of the screen dedicated to the map and the left third of the page for search and directions. Along the top of the map is a carousel navigation featuring groupings of locations like grocery stores, bars, and gas stations. It’s a well done interface for finding nearby attractions on the map.

Most people stick with MapQuest because they trust their directions over others. After a couple of test searches, I prefer the directions from Google better. But MapQuest is more enjoyable to just browse around. One feature MapQuest did really well is right clicking anywhere on the map will bring up the address of that location. Sure the address is an approximation, but the map bubble that pops up gives the house number, street, city, and zip. Sometimes there is even a 360 degree view just like Google’s Street view. MapQuest’s street view feature is more basic but I find it more intuitive to pan around. It doesn’t take up the whole screen and its easy to just pop in, pop out and continue on your way.

Will I’ll drop Google Maps and make MapQuest my dedicated online mapping service? Probably not. Google Maps has too many extra features for a power user like me (auto complete, public transportation, scroll wheel to zoom in/out). But for those people that feel Google Maps is too complicated and  hard to use MapQuest provides a clean, easy to use mapping site that is geared for people like them. I would easily recommend MapQuest to an average computer user while Google is for people who want more features.

The more competition the better for all of us. MapQuest has certainly stepped up it’s game and I can’t wait to see what else they have in store.

Digg Bing Logo Mashup had a type battle for members to design a new logotype for digg.User aluminum posted this fine Bing version of the digg logo.

It’s a clever idea since both brands are 4 letters and the second letter is an “i”.

(via dburka, the creator of the digg logo)

AOL Goes MTV With Latest Rebranding

Aol rebranding logos

AOL offered a glimpse into their re-branding today and most of the web was left dazed and confused (55% of the respondents to a RedWriteWeb poll hated it). AOL simply decapitalized the “O” and the “L” and added a dot at the end. While the logo itself will stay the same, the background will change continuously foregoing a traditional mark.

It’s certainly an off-kilter strategy but a good fit for a company trying to reinvent itself. I’m a fan of the new look.

The dot part wasn’t really explained well in the media coverage. Aol. plans to brand their various properties like Aol.Shopping and Aol.Mapquest. It’s meant to tie all of Aol.’s vast content together.

As for the random background images, I think it is fun and keeps things interesting. Bing is doing the same thing with their background images on the main search page and Google’s doodle logos are in a similiar vein. MTV, a company outside of the Internet space, is famous for the many variations of it’s logo. Aol.’s re-branding strategy certainly isn’t anything new and in fact feels more like the front end of a trend.

Various MTV logos

While Aol.’s re-branding efforts are modern and edgy now, I doubt it will have the lasting power of their previous branding.  It’s not perfect but it’s just what the company needs as it prepares to go alone as it spins off from Time Warner. Besides, look how many people are talking about the company after so many years of media obscurity.

Google Chrome’s Logo Looks Like…

The Google Chrome Ball

Google’s snazzy new browser, Chrome, is slick both in looks and performance. But look at that logo. It kind of looks like…

the Death Star?

The Death Star

(via Paul Jacobson)

Hal 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey?

HAL 9000

(via Jaireh aka exuberantfool)

the Windows Media Player 10 icon?

Windows Media Player 10 Icon

(via me)

Samus Aran’s Morph Ball from Metroid?

Metroid Morph Ball

(via Metro Mapper)

the eyes of the Martians in War of the Worlds?

The Martians Eyes from the original War of the Worlds

(via John Wohn aka JDub)

the game Simon?

Simon the game

(via Going Like Sixty)

a Poké ball from Pokemon?

a Poké ball from Pokemon

(via various people)

So as you can see Google was inspired by a multitude of geeky things when it came up with the logo for it’s latest project. Let’s hope it wasn’t really inspired by Pokemon. Eck!