Who doesn't love a good map? It invokes dreams of the future and memories of places near and far. Which is exactly what inspired this project to create maps of the countries I have and will call home.
We've all seen the map posters in souvenir shops and the Instagram adverts riding the personalised product wave. It's easy to create your own custom map and get it shipped to your door. With so many businesses offering basically the same service, it can't be that hard to do it myself, right? I mean it's just an API call to Google Maps or Mapbox, voila, you have a custom map. At 50€ per poster, this has indiehack potential.
Why buy it when you can build it yourself? A terrible way to think, but it makes for a fun weekend.
It turns out that it's not as simple as one API call. It's computationally expensive to render a detailed large scale map and not in the interest of the big players to offer to the public. There are officially supported ways to render custom styled maps, but with a resolution cap that leaves me wanting. You can hack something together with a browser and some libraries, but I want an elegant solution that can support an international business, or create a few maps each year for myself. Basically the same functional requirements.
The MVP as it stands is a service that can be deployed as a serverless function (for small maps) and to a dedicated server (for not small maps). It has a restful interface that accepts map bounds, canvas configuration, layout instructions and custom style parameters. Layouts can be set to render multiple maps on the same canvas and with a custom shape mask. It can output maps sized up to A0 at 300dpi , layered for special printing in multiple formats. It's a simple matter to put the endpoints behind an API gateway like Kong to monitor and meter usage. The domain name is bought and ready to amaze the world.
Exactly the minimum functionality needed to make it viable.
I know what you're thinking, easy SaaS. Time to print money on demand and fund the digital nomad lifestyle. As tempting as Paris pants are, there's a dark side to print on demand businesses that don't align with my values. By not having a say in the supply chain choices and production process, I can't guarantee an ethically and sustainably made product.
I would love to create prints that ooze with bespoke quality and have to power to spark up conversation and reflection. I can do this for myself, working with a local printer to create a masterpiece.
I'm fortunate enough that I can say creating products is the easy part and that creating the business that sells said product is the hard part, it's time consuming and filled with uncertainty. Maybe I decide to gamble in the future, for now the most I can do is leave the domain on renew and print my gold foil Moomin shaped Helsinki poster.
If this project caught your eye, or you have something similar in mind, get in touch!