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Jan 17, 2013

</2012> <2013>

Calendars are, in many ways, maps of time. In paper versions, lines separate days and weeks, pages and pictures distinguish months. There is a certain joy in making the first mark on a fresh calendar, and similarly, there is joy in looking back at the dots and scribbles and sticky notes, missed appointments and completed tasks. All of these scrawlings are pins on our own map of time, and they tell a story.

Here's the work part of our story for 2012:


Google asked us to work with Enso and Blue State Digital to map voices in protest of the behind-closed-door meeting held by the International Telecommunication Union, in which they sought to increase censorship and regulate the historically open web. Over 3 million people added their voice to the map.

The City from the Valley

We deployed bike messengers and a team of counters to map the secretive bus routes used to transport San Francisco residents to their jobs in Silicon Valley. The project was a commission of the the 2012 Zero1 Biennial - themed Seeking Silicon Valley and was covered by the Wall Street Journal and on Marketplace.


On March 22, - a series of tools to empower people to create their own beautiful maps - went live! Part of a grant from the Knight News Challenge, the site offers three core map styles: Watercolor, Toner, and Terrain. Later in the year, we modified both Toner and Terrain to include layers with streets only, labels only, and background only, and added the Burning Map style. And since there is no rest for the wicked, we recently added the Map2Image feature, which allows anyone to create a 2000x2000 px image of these maps. People are using the maps all over the place!

Since launch, we’ve seen these map tiles used to create so many maps - even shoes with maps on them! The project has also sparked a collaboration with Jen Bekman for 20x200, made its way into the It's Nice That annual, and was featured in the July 2012 issue of Icon.

Facebook: Mapping the World’s Friendships + Friends + (Explosive!) Photo Flowers

This year, Facebook asked us to participate in a couple of projects as part of the Facebook Stories series. The first, Mapping the World’s Friendships illustrates how many Facebook friendships there are between countries.

The second project - Photo Sharing Explosions - visualizes how a small selection of George Takei’s images made their way through Facebook’s global web in a series of photo-sharing explosions, expressed in floral, fireworky shapes.

Famous Failures (referencing this image):

Abfab London 2012 (referencing this image):

Marvin the Martian (referencing this image):

Iterations for this project were beautiful in and of themselves. Here are some sketches:

Take a look at the complete process. Oh! Also take a look at this Fast Company Design article which lauds the work as one of the top visulizations of 2012. Thanks, Fast Company!

Field Papers

More mapping tools! Working with friends at Caerus Associates, we’ve created a tool called Field Papers, which allows anyone to make printable atlases of anywhere in the world, even if they have no experience with GPS or GIS software. By scribbling on these atlases, then scanning or photographing them, they can be added to a digital version to the map.

A Day of NASDAQ Trades

Here's a fun piece from last year - a visualization of a flurry of a data from a day of NASDAQ trades. The piece looks like it should be accompanied by Flight of the Bumblebee or something similarly speedy. Watch the video!

There’s so much information embedded in this work - it’s worth it to peruse the full breakdown here and here.

Yandex Maps

Russia's most popular search engine Yandex asked us to redesign their maps, and they launched in 2012! These before-and-after shots show our subtle changes:

More to come soon!

Energy Efficiency in San Gabriel Valley

With public service agency PMC, we mapped per capita activity data and greenhouse gas emmissions from the 27 cities that participated in the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments Energy Action Plan project.

Surging Seas

We all know we are losing our glaciers - what does the resulting rising sea level mean for the US coast? Created with Climate Central, interactive map Surging Seas illustrates how up to an extra 10 feet in the sea level would affect our shores. A few months later, megastorm Sandy hit and showed us, in reality, what raising the sea level by 13 feet looks like in real life.

Weather Channel

With all of the aberrant weather we saw in 2012, talking about the weather has never been so interesting (albeit somewhat disturbing). Luckily we had an opportunity to work on two weather displays with The Weather Channel, namely the Hurricane Tracker:

...and the Travel Planner.

Natural Earth v.2.0.0

Open-source mapping tool Natural Earth v2.0.0 was released by amazing dad-to-be Stamen Nathaniel Kelso. Natural Earth allows anyone to create maps of anywhere in the world (yay!), and the new release includes plenty of new features - like datasets including roads, railroads, ports, and airports - to connect the cultural landscape with the natural one. Says Kelso: “Natural Earth is not a map by itself. Instead, Natural Earth provides fine cartographic ingredients that allow map makers to tell more compelling visual stories instead of spending time hunting for data.” Try it out!

Shifting Demographics

Speaking of pet projects made by Stamens, Shawn Allen put together a lovely cartogram of 2010 and 2011 census data. The map was featured as the Infographic of the Day in Fast Company Design on Dec. 13.

Creepy Maps: Quarantine Your City

Using Modest Maps and Easey, Quarantine your City maps where fans of the Oren Peli thriller Chernobyl Diaries vote to see a special screening in their city. The idea behind the screening competition was that users could “quarantine” their city by voting for it on Twitter or Facebook, raising "quarantine" levels. After a few weeks, Warner Bros. picked the top 20 cities for screening. Why should New York and Hollywood get the only premiers?!

Twitter Trackers!

2012 was a year of more Twitter trackers, which are always fun. Continuing our work with MTV, we made one for the 2012 Video Music Awards (VMA): well as the 2012 Europe Music Awards (EMA):

...and for the 2012 MTV Movie Awards:

We also got to track tweets for 2012 Country Music Television’s CMT Awards:

...and to work with the fun, bold branding of LogoTV’s 2012 NewNextNow Awards, creating a punchy Twitter Tracker for them as well. This project also has a fun video showing the animated interface.


Early last year, Esquire asked a few designers to make a map of the state of the union in 2012 without referencing political parties. We answered with this map: Where Does the Money Go? The map mashes up 2009 data from the IRS with Open MapQuest route information, creating a county-by-county guide of where people are moving to and from. (Note to fellow map nerds: lovely process blog post here.) (Note to everyone: fun for clicking and learning!)

Where will 2013 go? Questions. So many questions. You'd think with all of this data we'd get some answers. Well, it's true that we get some, but so often there is so much more to learn, so much more of a story to tell. Perhaps that is one of the most beautiful things about data - it is an endless, ever-giving, question-making thing. For us, it is a lifelight.

Meanwhile, our once blank 2013 calendar is getting its first marks of the year. We're excited to see where the map takes us next!

Do you have an interesting project you'd like us to work on? Message us at