Hello, Mapbox!

Dumplings, wurst, and dino nuggets shaped my childhood food pyramid, and it wasn't because I lived near an all-you-can-eat buffet. After a few sweltering summers in Beijing, I joined potato parades in Munich before nesting in sunny California at age 7. Moving from continent to continent made me fascinated by how life was so different in places of the world.

And maps tell that story.

At their simplest, maps inform us on distance, size, location, and direction. When other layers and dimensions are plotted on a map, we begin seeing a richness in context and connection that few other tools can visualize as elegantly.

A few years back, at an internship with a cricket protein bar company, Exo, I was curious about where Exo's Kickstarter supporters hailed from and when they pledged. The color of the ellipses denote gender and the size of the dots correlates with pledge amount. Overlapping circles begin to show clusters of supporters, revealing that Washingtonians, Californians, and New Yorkers were avid backers.

A few weeks back, my little sister, Arianna, flew to Dallas, Texas for the USA National Fencing Championships. We wanted to know where her competitors trained, so after some data gathering, cleaning, and parsing, I fiddled with Mapbox Studio, Mapbox.js, and Leaflet to draft up this map. Arianna posed "the lunge" for the little fencer icon and the color scheme was inspired by USA Fencing's palette. Each fencer icon is associated with a fencer card.

I know the fencing map only scratches the surface of what can be built with Mapbox--what if paths were plotted between opponents, with the path tinting green on the victorious side and red on the defeated side to visualize the results of the championship? What if we built a map that greeted you with "hello" in the country's language when a country is hovered over, to show how proximity affects language? What if we used Mapbox Satellite to create 3D anaglyph images so that viewers can experience the world depicted in the map the same way they experience worlds in 3D movies?

Having walked the podium this June for degrees in computer science and industrial design from the Brown/RISD Dual Degree Program, I was thrilled to finally find a data and design-driven problem-solving opportunity through the delightful medium of maps. I know I have a lot to learn and think it would be unbelievably cool to join Mapbox's cartography team to continue growing!

Melody Cao