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Decoding the Tan and Red Colors on Google Maps

There are only two colors aside from the colors you already know (green, grey, blue, gold) that are important: pink and tan.

February 5, 2018-2 min read

I’ve been traveling a lot in areas that are not English-first or have bad data connections so I’ve been relying on the useful UI of Google Maps.

All you really need to note are the colors. That’s it. Aside from the colors you already know (green, grey, blue, gold) there are only two others that are important: pink and tan.


Pink areas or markers are public services open to the public. Train stations, hospitals, etc. It also includes underground pedestrian corridors.

Underground pedestrian corridors are the light pink. We can see this if we zoom into Tokyo Station.


This is the most useful of all the colors. Frequently you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for but you know that it will be around other buildings of the same type. For instance, if you want food but you don’t know what type of food or the name of a restaurant in the area, all you need to know is where a dining/retail dense area is located. Where there’s one restaurant there will be more.

That’s what tan marks, retail, dining, and similar things. It’s accurate. I rely on it frequently if I’m walking around a city and don’t have data but want a cup of coffee. In a tan area in a big city there is guaranteed to be a coffee shop, often times there will be three or four in a two-block area.

If we zoom in on any of the areas above you’ll see the shopping and dining symbols start to saturate the frame.

Google is far ahead of Apple in terms of mapping. It’s the smart choice if you need to navigate unknown cities. This shading system can be found in all types of geography, small towns, big cities, even rural villages.

If you’re interested in how Google has been able to do this check out this link on how, why, and when Google improves it’s mapping service. Highly recommended. It was how I found out about the tan areas.

© 2019 Phil Andrews