Two of our favorite basic styles are Mapbox Light and Dark. Designed to be underlays, these styles sit perfectly behind analytics dashboards, data visualizations, and maps with a custom data overlay. As we prepare to roll out Mapbox GL, we’ve begun to revisit a few of these styles to make sure they take full advantage of the unique features that make GL an exciting platform.

The central design challenge for both Light and Dark styles is maintaining cohesion and legibility without the use of color. Without clear visual hierarchies, these styles would become muddled and distract from any overlaid data. We continue to rely on line thickness and opacities in Mapbox Light and Dark to create these design systems, but GL gives us much greater control of these tools.

Traditionally, webmaps have paused between zoom levels while the new image tiles loaded, but GL’s client-side rendering enables smooth transitions between both the full range of zoom levels, and changes to the style of the map itself. The ability to smoothly and seamlessly transition between significant but subtle differences in the style has allowed us to fine tune these styles to maximize their legibility and effectiveness. What would have been jarring in a traditional webmap is now gradually introduced over time, offering a level of continuity and control that was previously impossible.

Our Dark and Light styles have always been designed in tandem, but with the easy switching in GL between styles and classes, we wanted to make sure that these styles are totally in sync. From bridges to fonts, these two styles mirror one another more than ever, and we are excited to see what developers do when presented with a paired set of complimentary map styles.

There is a lot to be excited about as we look towards rolling out Mapbox GL, especially the amazing amount of creative control designers and developers will soon have over the look and feel of their maps. We’ve had a lot of fun using GL to improve our core styles over the last few weeks, and we are eager to see how people will build on top of this work.