Stamen is a design and technology studio in San Francisco.

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    Mar 9, 2015

    A New Map for Instagram’s Instameets

    All around the world, people are getting together for Instameets, where Instagrammers gather to take lovely, fabulously filtered square photos of the world around them. It had been a challenge to effectively and elegantly map this community activity, so Instagram reached out to us to help to them out with a new map of community activity around the world.

    The new, now mobile-friendly Instameet map foregrounds photos instead of standard icons, and it distinguishes between gatherings old and new. Red dots and photo borders reflect Instameets in the future, while blue dots and photo borders reflect meetings in the past. Photos along the bottom of the map are organized chronologically, too, so that it’s easy to see what’s happening, when.

    Photo selection is also much clearer and cleaner:

    And you can search for locations of Instameets as well:

    As a cherry on top, for people who are looking to just see what’s out there, we implemented a simple animation cycling between featured Instameet photos.

    Learn more about Instameets and go play with the map at!

    Mar 4, 2015

    Parks are social

    There’s a story in the American nature-loving tradition that people go to the outdoors in part to get away from other people. Some people might even say that’s the main reason to go outside.

    We’re ever more certain, however, that in truth parks are social, people live their lives in them, and bringing together support for parks means embracing that with open arms.

    That’s what we’ve been trying to do with the concept, design, and launch of, our web application that brings together curated park location and activity data with completely uncurated image feeds from Instagram and Flickr, capturing images posted by anyone within the boundaries of California’s nearly 12,000 public parks.

    We’re thrilled with stories like this one from New America Media—soon to be translated into Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese! There you’ll meet young, diverse urban dwellers ready to visit and support parks, and also leaders like José Gonzalez of Latino Outdoors and Rue Mapp of Outdoor Afro, who are leading the way in showing the parks world that diverse communities already use and support parks and are ready to do more, given the right context.

    And that context is all about the conversations we collectively have about, in, and for parks. What stories do we tell? Who do we ask to share their experiences?

    As many people as possible!

    Right after we launched last month, we worked with our friends at Upwell to hold a “Parkinar” about social media in parks — a conversation about conversations in parks.

    The response was amazing: More than 80 people participated directly in the Parkinar, including a range of influencers from large agencies like the National Park Service, community groups like Riverside’s Save Our Chinatown Committee, and blogs like Outdoorsy Mama and

    Upwell’s research on the conversational impact showed that a single virtual event actually increased parks conversation more than LA Times:

    That’s nice for, but it’s even better for parks as a whole: When we open up the conversation, the stories start flowing.

    Let’s keep that going!

    We’re working on improving, so send us your feedback. There’s a feedback link on the bottom of every page on the site — and we do read those submissions!

    And let us know how we can help you expand the conversation. Here are some ideas:

    • has what we call featured “story blocks” prominently on the home page. Right now we’re featuring “Explore State Parks.” Yeah! Do you have a favorite set of parks that speak to you and the community you’re part of? Send us a list of ten or twenty parks and a link to a Creative Commons photo on Flickr, and we’ll feature your favorite parks (and your group in the story block!), and then you can share the list with your community. (And if you need help finding an image, we can do that too.)
    • Embed maps from along with activities and social media from your favorite parks in your blog or website. Just find your favorite parks, hit the “Embed” button, and copy the code into your site (like this)!
    • Take control of the way your favorite parks appear on, and on social media. Post photos from your favorite parks to Instagram and Flickr and we’ll harvest them within a day to show on Just be sure you turn on location services so that your geolocation gets picked up.
    • Keep talking about parks on social media! Use the hashtag #caliparks so we can all share the conversation.

    And keep in touch! Thanks!

    Feb 26, 2015

    Taking Up Space: The Largest Leaseholders in San Francisco

    by Eric

    Ever wondered what companies are taking up the most space in San Francisco? Kalin Kelly, a director at boutique real estate firm CM Commercial, has been wondering the same thing and decided to take action to find out.

    Over the past few months, she’s been collecting all of the data she can find about leasing transactions in San Francisco. What she’s found is that the biggest real estate deals happening in the city (in terms of space) are mainly being done with technology companies, and that the lion’s share of it is happening along Market Street and into the Mission and Dogpatch. She predicts that the trend will continue south into the Mission.

    Is her prediction correct? Only time will tell. In the meantime, take a look at the map and see for yourself and read more about it in TechCrunch.

    Stamen founder and creative director Eric Rodenbeck has worked with Kalin Kelly as part of his work with the Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST).

    Jan 13, 2015

    The Zachary Watson Memorial Education Fund

    by Eric

    Last year, our friend and colleague Zachary Watson tragically died in an accident at the age of 29, leaving many of us shocked and deeply saddened. In his memory and honor, a few current and former Stamens have set up an education fund. It's being administered by our friends and neighbors down the street at Gray Area Foundation for the Arts.

    Zach was a well-loved and much-respected member of our community, involved with and leading some of Stamen's most iconic work. He was a free and independent man, quirky and full of life, pursuing his varied interests with a fresh eye and a big smile. So in that spirit, each year on March 14 (Pi Day) one promising young creative coder will receive a $5,000 grant from Zach's fund to help further their education. The funds will be provided free and clear, and recipients may use the money for whatever they wish.

    You can donate to the fund if you like; we want to keep his memory alive through helping others like him. And if you'd like to apply, or know someone who would, please take a look here for directions.

    I saw a lot of myself in Zach. Among other things, we were both the kinds of young men that thought suits and mohawks went well together. He was a smart and talented and fun guy, and I miss him a lot.

    Donate or apply to the Zachary Watson Memorial Education Fund here.

    Dec 16, 2014

    Get a drink of open data with MapIsArt

    Just in time for your holiday gift buying rush, we're announcing today a new partnership with MapIsArt. They're a new company formed to take advantage of the increased availability and accuracy of OpenStreetMap data by offering custom map products based on our watercolor maps. We're starting off with a couple different custom products: canvas, table lamps, marble clocks, serving trays, and (drum roll please) table coasters, and there's more to come as things develop. But in the meantime, show your love for Stamen & OSM by heading over to MapIsArt for custom map goodies!

    Dec 1, 2014

    Introducing Positron & Dark Matter: New Basemap Styles for CartoDB

    By Beth & Seth

    Ready to make lovely maps using open source data on an open source platform? Two new basemap styles – Positron and Dark Matter – are available from mapping platform CartoDB, waiting for you to make your own beautiful visualizations.

    CartoDB already has a suite of styles to choose from, but some of the ones using OpenStreetMap data were only available at limited zoom levels. With our new styles, visualization possibilities await at all zooms, creating an opportunity for depth beyond what’s been possible before now.

    Throughout both maps we’ve made clear labeling for cities, parks, water bodies, and administrative boundaries. We’ve also worked out the relationships between line thickness and outlines for roads, railroads, rivers, and lakes across all zoom levels. Relative brightness of various features have been tweaked to create an appropriate hierarchy of importance at all zoom levels.

    And finally, we’ve given some extra special love to the CartoDB offices in Madrid and Brooklyn, and the Stamen office in San Francisco (only visible when you zoom all the way in).

    It’s been great working with CartoDB to make it easier for everyone to make data visualizations. Now we’re excited to see what you make with what we made together.

    Want to use these basemaps with Leaflet.js? Here's how:

    var layer = L.tileLayer('http://{s}{z}/{x}/{y}.png',{
      attribution: '© OpenStreetMap contributors, © CartoDB'
    var map ='map', {
        scrollWheelZoom: false,
        center: [40.7127837, -74.0059413],
        zoom: 6

    Let your data story sing!

    Nov 20, 2014

    Healthcare Variation: Location, Location, Location

    This week, the California Healthcare Foundation (CHCF), a longtime Stamen client, released a completely redesigned and updated version of All Over the Map, a tool to help policymakers, health professionals, and concerned citizens discover variations in the prevalence of elective procedures across California.

    Why does such variation matter? Well, it turns out geography matters when it comes to whether or not a person gets a knee replacement or has a baby through induced labor. And location matters even when the data experts working with CHCF corrected for other factors, like age, race, socioeconomic status, and so on.

    Using this map, one can discover that, if you’re a pregnant woman in Gardenia, you are six times more likely to have an electively induced birth as if you lived in Napa.

    That’s a big difference!

    All Over the Map 2014 is the third version of this interface we’ve designed and built for CHCF, going back to 2011. The key change this year was, well, change. With two data periods available for many procedures, we had the opportunity to highlight not just outliers in one time period, but also how much certain areas have changed over time.

    For example, though Clearlake residents had the state’s highest rate of coronary angiography from 2005 to 2008, that rate dropped by 47% in 2009-12.

    Working closely with CHCF, we were able to create an interface that combines bold colors and simple bar charts with careful and refined interactions and subtle color gradations to bring beauty and subtlety to highly technical data. Color schemes and legends highlight outliers in the data, while thoroughly storing variables in the URL means that all states of the map are easily shareable.

    How does your home region fare on the map? Find out!

    Nov 19, 2014

    A Blueprint for Global Water Security: Visualizing Urban Watersheds for The Nature Conservancy

    by Beth and Dan

    Few things are more vital to a city than safe, accessible fresh water. More than 20% of the world’s population lives in areas where access to clean, fresh water is challenging. It’s obvious: Healthy cities need reliable clean water to thrive.

    But how do we achieve that critical goal of safe, secure water supplies for hundreds of cities all over the world?

    The Nature Conservancy, working with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the International Water Association, has the answer: Conservation strategies could benefit more than 700 million people in the world’s 100 largest cities—one out of 10 people on the planet.

    A rich, new dataset created by Nature Conservancy scientists – and visualized by us – illustrates this opportunity, for more than 500 cities worldwide. In many cases, solutions are very manageable, making cities’ water systems safer and more secure while also benefitting wildlife and ecosystems. The dataset breaks down the water data metrics by quality:

    ..and by quantity:

    It also covers the nature-based solutions cities could use to make their water systems safer and more secure, including best practices for agriculture, riparian restoration, forest protection, reforestation, and forest fuel reduction. These actions help to conserve water while benefitting wildlife and ecosystems in the process.

    TNC brings incredible depth of knowledge to the work, and asked Stamen to help find a way to make their data approachable, engaging and navigable for city managers, mayors, water managers, and residents in cities around the world. The data itself covers 25 different variables for 535 cities, and those cities contain 1,840 “diversions” — watersheds, desalination plants, groundwater withdrawal points — and each of those has nine or 10 data points. If you’re following along at home, that’s 13,375 city data points and 18,000 watershed data points. It’s a lot for experts to manage, not to mention civilians!

    The goal, of course, wasn’t to drown people in all that data, but rather to reveal the most interesting and relevant information at the right time. The team at the Nature Conservancy selected 25 cities to highlight with narratives and images that highlight the story they wanted to tell — that conservation works for people and nature — and our map and page designs showcase that message.

    Once you find yourself on a city page, in Jakarta, for example, you can take in the whole sweep of that city’s water situation with a few simple charts and color-coded ratings. At a glance, you see that much of Jakarta’s water comes from afar, and that its overall water supply is very stressed.

    You might also easily see how neighboring cities – like Oakland and San Francisco, sometimes have very different water supplies and, consequenly, water challenges. In particular, San Francisco’s water quantity is stressed while Oakland’s is not.

    In the end, protecting an upstream watershed from deforestation can improve water quality as much or more than installing an expensive treatment plant. This has significant impact on the bottom line, and New York City’s story is a perfect illustration. In the 90’s the city was tasked to meet state and federal regulations to comply with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. One option on the table was to create a water treatment plan to the tune of $8-10 billion, not including annual operating and maintenance costs. The option they went with instead was protecting the city’s forested watershed, which cost $1.5 billion and has yielded some of the best drinking water in the world.

    San Diego's approach is a different one: paying farmers to implement conservation measures so the water they save can then be used in the city.

    All in all, TNC estimates that the water utilities surveyed could save nearly a billion dollars a year by investing in watershed conservation. For more on the economic impact of water conservation, download the full report at the bottom of the opening page.

    This map is the culmination of years of work by TNC scientists. We are honored and delighted to have been able to work with them to represent their important work in a clear and accurate way. The Urban Water Blueprint is also designed to explore and share, so that people around the world can understand and talk about the water challenges faced by their cities. Most importantly, like TNC, we hope to see city leaders take action to protect water for people and nature.

    Less doom and gloom, fewer dollars spent! There’s no reason not to conserve.

    Get the Urban Water Blueprint for your city.

    Nov 13, 2014

    The Urbanist: Urban Cartography at SPUR

    It's no secret that the field of cartography has been going through some pretty serious change lately, and that a lot of this change is happening because of work being done here in the Bay Area. San Francisco-based nonprofit think tank SPUR has been tracking developments in the field and doing a lot to get the word out: their current Urban Cartography exhibit is in the pages of Dwell, San Francisco Magazine, and Curbed. We received our copies of the magazine that accompanies the exhibit today. It's great to see the iconic work that Eric Fischer does alongside our own City from the Valley map, Andreas' summer fellowship, and Alan's OpenStreetMap work.

    The exhibit is up through February 2015, so there's plenty of time to pay it a visit.

    Nov 7, 2014

    Notes from 2. Istanbul Tasarim Bienali – Istanbul's Second Design Biennial

    by Beth

    Greetings from Berlin. Earlier this week I was in Turkey, where I'd spent the last week coordinating the install of our curation, Mapmaker Manifesto.

    The second Istanbul Design Biennial opened to the public on November 1. Produced by iKSV, one of Istanbul's, if not Turkey's, largest arts foundations, the event worked with over 50 artists, designers and artist/designers who each produced a manifesto under the timely theme of The Future is Not What it Used to Be.

    The room for our curation within a curation in is a funny, narrow one, with paneling up to my ribcage topped by nearly 17'x12' of white wall on either side. The other two walls are home to a large window overlooking an abandoned building on one side and the entry way (with another window looking into the room) on the other.

    The room has received an overwhelmingly positive response from curators, mapmakers, designers and artists who have visited it (as well as a mention in Design Boom, featuring The Refugee Project by Ekene Ijeoma and Hyperact.) I had multiple people tell me that it was their favorite room in the entire exhibition, even though the installation was not complete for opening weekend. The manifesto itself was not installed until Sunday evening, and the website (which is the guide to the room) is being added this week.

    Designing inherently comes with a healthy dose of perfectionism, of course the incompletion caused me anxiety and stress. But then I remembered that manifestos (and exhibitions, for that matter) are idealistic in nature and messy in practice. The Mapmaker Manifesto is no exception. The manifesto calls for maps of all kinds as a kind of data collection process, to see if there is any universality that reveals itself through multiple representations of You Are Here. Data will save the world, right? If we can just see the things that are wrong, then we'll fix them, of course. We'll make a future together, if we can just agree on what the map says.

    Of course, we know this isn't true. As Becky Cooper points out in Mapping Manhattan (which was included in the exhibition) maps are by no means objective, and in fact the contrary is true. Not only are maps subjective, they can sometimes be downright wrong. The false location of the Greek School (the Biennial site) in Google Maps reminded many of us foreigners of this fact. Joseph Dana from Monocle took out the pen and paper to route the actual location of another site for one of his colleagues, warning her against using the tool.

    We call out the subjectivity of maps in our curation, which is, in and of itself, a very subjective map of maps. I had the great pleasure of speaking about this during a Designers in Dialogue session with Helen Maria Nugent, moderated by SAIC student and curatorial assistant Denise Bennett. Helen’s project maps the look of love using eye tracking technology, and then manifests them as objects made with the materials of anniversaries, such as paper and silver. Denise paired us together so that we could talk about the expansiveness of mapmaking and types of maps.

    The biennial itself had countless maps hidden inside of it. I did my best to hunt for them all. Here is one about the 6th extinction, by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg:

    And another one from Repair Society:

    And another one from Occupy Gezi Architecture:

    While I was busy talking about maps and tending to the still-in-construction room, Becky Cooper was on a mission throughout Istanbul. As part of the Mapmaker Manifesto, Becky walked the city with a translator, and documenter, and a whole lot of maps for her Mapping Istanbul project. This project, along with our online curation, will be happening throughout the Biennial, and perhaps beyond it. During her walks, she spoke with over 100 people, and even helped a blind man to map his memories as she described them to her. The hope is to collect enough of these maps and stories to make another book.

    One of the most exciting diversions was seeing the map collection of iKSV’s editorial manager, Kerim Bayer. Over the past 7 years, he has been collecting maps, most of them from 1850–1950. During a break, we rode his motorcycle up to the top of one of Istanbul’s many hills to his office, where he has nearly 1000 maps! Here is a small sampling:

    Kerim is an aspiring mapmaker himself. In speaking with him, it seems there are very few mapmakers in Istanbul (or at least few that he knows). He also pointed out that the OpenStreetMap data in the area is sparse, making it hard to work with. My hope is to keep in touch with him, and perhaps there is an opportunity for a Maptime in Istanbul, with enough people. Design is beginning to take off in Istanbul, and perhaps a community of map designers and data visualizers will come with that shift.

    Things change all the time, of course, but there was an overwhelming sense among many of the artists and designers present that we are at an apex of sorts. Istanbul itself exists in a brackish water between old and new. Perhaps this has always been the case in a city that spans two continents, has had multiple names, and carries with it the weight of thousands of years of history. Taking over an old Greek school with futurist design ideas seemed in and of itself fitting for this year’s Biennial. The future-facing works within the exhibition created a brackish water of its own between art and design, modernism and postmodernism, science fiction and science fact. It can be quite overwhelming.

    Our little room of maps captures this feeling, and like everything else in the exhibition, will before we know it be gone. The documentation, including the maps themselves, will be all that remain.


    Visit the Mapmaker Manifesto site and see more photos on Flickr