Last week on Google Maps Developers Live Paul Saxman talked about how he designs a few of his favorite map styles, and shared a few of his tools and techniques for designing maps for visualisations. The video of the talk is a good introduction of how and when you should use the Google Maps Styled Map feature.
The video includes a number of examples of interesting map styles with some particularly good examples of how to style a map to emphasise colours in heat maps. These ideas were used recently in this excellent visualisation of ship movements during WWI.
The Navy of WWI
animates 12 years of location data, starting before the outbreak of war
and ending when trade routes resume after the war's end. As the
animation plays the ships' tracks are displayed on the map and stand out because of the choice of colours in the map style and the tracking polylines.
Diehl Group Architects also created a neat style for their contact page. Being architects DAG used a map style that really emphasises the buildings on the map.
But styled maps don't always have to be in black and white. Designer Peter Smart travelled 2517 miles to try and use design to Solve 50 Problems in 50 Days.
Peter used Google Maps to document his journey and the work he completed
along the way. As you might expect from a designer his map
The Global Transition to a New Economy is a Google Map designed to showcase projects around the world that are part of a new developing economy. The map is a nice example of how map styles can be used to create a map that complements the colour scheme used on a website.
If you want to play around with Google Map Styles yourself then the Google Maps API Styled Map Wizard is a great place to start.