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relay

Relay is a beautiful app for creating and sharing custom maps

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Gillmor Gang LIVE 05.06.16

Today’s mapping applications are focused on helping you navigate from one spot to the next, or discovering the businesses around you. But they tend to be utilitarian in nature, and not what anyone would describe as “fun” to use. A new mapping application called Relay changes that. This simple, expertly designed app lets you create custom maps for your upcoming trips, so you can easily visualize in a single map view all the places you plan to visit.

For example, you could add pins to restaurants you want to try, tourist destinations like museums or theaters, stores where you want to shop and even your hotel or Airbnb. By seeing all your pins on the map at the same time, you can get a sense of what’s around you and how far away you are from various locations.

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Using Relay is simple, thanks to its thoughtful design.

You can create as many custom maps in the app as you like, and load them up with pins of your favorite places. Plus, you can add notes for each destination to remind yourself why you want to go there, or any other tips you want to remember. Relay also pulls in helpful information to go along with these pins, including a business’s phone number and website address, if applicable.

And with a click of a button, you can rename a pin, mark it as “complete” or get directions. In other words, Relay can function like a traditional mapping application by offering driving, transit and walking directions to your destination.

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The app is not a new startup, but rather a side project from Oliver Brooks, a digital product designer based in Canada. His day job is a Design Lead at MetaLab, a full stack design agency in Victoria, which works with clients like Slack, Coinbase, TED, Brit + Co. and others.

This is Brooks’ first foray into mobile apps, he says, though he’s done some freelance work in the past. He designed Relay and worked with a developer he met through a friend, Craig Merchant, to code it.

Brooks explains the idea for the app came from his own experience traveling and a problem he wanted to solve for himself.

“I was really frustrated that you couldn’t do this kind of thing very well with Google Maps or Apple Maps. So, I felt like I might as well try to do something myself,” he says. “I just wanted to make a tool that’s really helpful and easy to use.”

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Brooks worked on this bootstrapped project during nights and weekends here and there over the past two years (!!!), and says it feels really good to finally have it done.

Except projects like this are never really done, as it turns out.

An update arriving in a few weeks will let users customize their pins’ color instead of defaulting to Apple Maps’ color scheme determined by business category. The sharing feature will also be improved. Right now it emails a custom file attachment, but the upcoming version will deep link to the custom map right in the app, or point to the App Store page for those who don’t have Relay installed.

Relay is $1.99 on the iTunes App Store. (Side note: It has already moved into a prominent position on my iPhone’s second screen thanks to my upcoming trip to NYC for TechCrunch Disrupt.)

Oh, and by the way, Brooks says he likes making videos, too: