What if maps didn’t show spatial distance, but temporal distance? Sure, the question sounds like late night dorm room talk, but where others might have marveled and moved on, designer and software engineer Peter Liu dug in. The result is a new map visualization—the time map—that displays location search results based on the time it will take to get there.
Liu, a UI creator for the open-source mapping company Mapbox, realized that we often use distance as an indicator of how long it takes to reach a destination. “I thought, we’re using distance as an imprecise and poor proxy for travel time,” Liu told Co.Design. “Why not cut to the chase and visualize travel time?”
After researching other time-visualizing travel maps like isochrone maps used by urban planners and the walking maps posted in downtown Oakland, Liu settled on a display that uses concentric rings to show the travel time to various locations, as well as their direction in relation to the user.
It’s meant as a decision aid when debating about, say, what restaurant or store to visit. Once the user chooses where they want to go, the UI changes into a more conventional spatial map with directions. While the application is still in the prototype stage, Liu hopes to soon turn it into a full-fledged app and make it available for Mapbox’s clients to incorporate in their own applications.