Stamen is a design and technology studio in San Francisco.

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Mar 4, 2009

Flickr Clock is Live

Our friends at Flickr ("almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world") have launched Stamen's new project with them, Flickr Clock. It's a browser for the videos that people have recently started uploading to the site. They're arranged chronologically, and drawn from videos that people have posted to the flickrclock group on flickr.

The pool is quickly filling up with the usual Flickr brilliance: shadows, windmills, kangaroos, an almost casual "look at all this great stuff we have" that this community excels at providing. It will eventually autoplay, so you can sit back and let the user-generated goodness just wash on over you; sort of like Neave Television without all the wierd cat stuff.

The bottom of the interface lets you scroll back and forth in time, so you can get a broader sense of what the community's been posting:

And the slivers are sized according to the original size that the video was when it was posted, so you get all this lucious user-based variance:

It's been great to be working with Flickr again; it's been a while since we did the Nikon Stunning Gallery:

and even longer since we made Mappr:

Flickr clock is our second project with the talented Sha Hwang, whom close watchers will have noticed in our recent new studio portrait and who's been working with us in the studio since September. I'm a bit behind on blogging so I'll leave it at that for right now, but hope to have Sha's other project and hopefully a bio of the newest Stamen online soon.

Welcome, Sha!

Dec 5, 2008

Stamen in Contagious and Esquire

Stamen's had two nice pieces of press lately. We were featured among Esquire's "new cartographers" (along with Laura Kurgan and Sense Networks) in their "Best and Brightest" issue (out now - it's the one with Vince Vaughan on the cover), for our recent SFMOMA Artscope project. And the studio is the subject of an essay in this quarter's Contagious Magazine. Huzzah!

Stamen & SFMOMA in Esquire  

They're both nice pieces—I'm particularly happy that the editors of both magazines took the time to talk with our clients at Trulia, Digg, LOCOG, and SFMOMA for the articles. The Contagious article in particular (8 pages!) is the best and longest overview of the studio's work and working process that I've seen: it really goes into depth on the relation that exploratory work like Crimespotting has to the overall picture of what we're doing, talks about the value of using data visualization to help brand companies as trustworthy, and there's even a nod to the flower-based cross-pollinating impulse that gave us our name. Jess Greenwood's graciously provided us with a pdf of the article; find the whole thing here. It's a lush and beautiful magazine; you can subscribe here.

Nov 14, 2008

Get your drink on with Stamen

We're having what we hope will be the first of many semi-regular Friday happy hours at our studio tonight from 6 to 9; if you'd like to come, please RSVP here so we know how much Zubrowka to lay in.


See you tonight!

Nov 10, 2008

I'm speaking at the Commonwealth Club this Wednesday

I'll be giving a talk with Kevin O'Malley of Tech Talk this Wednesday, November 12 at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. It's a new kind of venue for me—Kevin describes the Club as more downtown San Francisco than South Park—and I'm really looking forward to getting some of Stamen's ideas out in front of the business community.

The title of the talk is Beyond the Web We Know: What Comes After 2.0? I'll be talking about how Stamen's work with visualizing vast, live and deep data sets can serve as a guide to what's coming. I hope to touch on some of Mike's and Kevin's ideas about what 2.5 looks like, where the activities of small groups in a financial downturn are the real places to watch for innovation.

If you're in San Francisco, please consider yourself invited. You can buy tickets here.

Also, Mike's just back from a whirlwind trip to Tokyo, where he gave by all accounts a rousing talk at Web Directions East; it all happened so fast that I didn't get the chance to announce it before he left and came back.

Aug 30, 2008

MSNBC hurricane maps are live

Over the weekend we released, for MSNBC, an interactive hurricane tracker. And just in time, because Hurricane Gustav is apparently "bearing down on Louisiana like a shotgun full of wind and rain."

I'm really pleased with how this project's turned out; in particular I've not seen a map like this before that gives a sense of the relative speed that a storm moves at (take a look at how Gustav slows down as it passes over the southwest coast of Haiti). It's not something I've really ever thought about before, but now that I've seen it, I'll be looking for it in every other map like this I see—which is just how I like to change the world. Congratulations to Tom and Geraldine for pulling this one together.

This is the first time that we've released something this concrete. At dinner last night Lane told me that it was the first time he'd seen something that Stamen had done that was going to really matter to him in 72 hours. We've historically shied away from doing work that's overly predictive and analytical, preferring to focus on the lyrical and metaphorical aspects of visualization. This is the first time you can make a decision based on something we've built, and I'm glad we seem to have crossed that barrier without fretting too much about it. Just about every big decision I've ever made that's turned out well has been made in lightness and in haste; no sense stopping now!

I was at Burning Man during Katrina, and I'll never forget the sinking feeling in my heart when people started arriving towards the event with copies of the New York Times showing New Orleans under water. I'm in London now, even farther away, but now watching and hoping that things go better for that beautiful city this time.

Aug 29, 2008

MoMA, Business Week, Lift

MoMA acquires "Cabspotting: New Years Eve 2007"

Holy shit!

Cabspotting at MoMa

Back in February I was happy to announce that Cabspotting, our project with Scott Snibbe and Amy Balkin, was to be included in the Museum of Modern Art's forthcoming Design and The Elastic Mind exhibition. In the meantime, the MoMA has decided to acquire the version of the piece that we made for the exhibit, titled "Cabspotting Flow: New Years Eve 2007," for their permanent collection.

Aug 29, 2008

London maps are live

Stamen's work for LOCOG is ready for prime time, and viewable at


Aug 13, 2008

Buckminster Fuller and the beauty of bubbles

Your Private Sky, Conquered

'Looking back at the wake of my ship one day in 1917, I became interested in its beautiful white path. I said to myself, "That path is white because of the different refractions of light by the bubbles of water—H20 (not Hπ0). The bubbles are beautiful little spheres. I wonder how many bubbles I am looking at stretching miles astern?"

'I began to make calculations of how many bubbles there were per cubic foot of water. I began to find that in calculating the ship's white wake I was dealing in quintillions to the fourth power times quintillions to the fourth power or some such fantastically absurd number of bubbles. And nature was making those bubbles in sublimely swift ease!

'Any time one looks carefully at a bubble, one is impressed with the beauty of its structure, its beautiful sphereicity glinting with the colors of the spectrum. It is ephemeral—elegantly conceived, beautifully manufactured and easily broken.

'Inasmuch as the kind of mathematics I had learned of in school required the use of the XYZ coordinate system and the necessity of placing π in calculating the spheres, I wondered, "to how many decimal places does nature carry out π before she decides that the computation can't be concluded?" Next I wondered, "to how many aribtrary decimal places does nature carry out the transcendental irrational before she decides to say it's a bad job and call it off?" If nature uses π she has to do what we call fudging of her design which means improvising, compromisingly. I thought sympathetically of nature's having to make all those myriad frustrated decisions each time she made a bubble. I didn't see how she managed to formulate the wake of every ship while managing the rest of the universe if she had to make all those decisions. So I said to myself, "I don't think nature uses π. I think she has some other mathematical way of coordinating her undertakings.""

—Buckminster Fuller, Your Private Sky, p.457

There's something here that I like very much (aside from how funny it is to picture the übernerd standing on the back of a ship counting bubbles); that there's a model of the world that we generally use and which is enough to get by, but isn't quite right, and that if you disregard that model and consider the qualities of the material itself, you realize that there's a whole different approach which can be much more fruitful. When Stamen's working on a project we start by taking a good close look at the data itself and seeing what conclusions emerge, rather than coming up with an external idea which we need to slot the data into, and doing it this way help us avoid having to come up with pi-like approximations which are awkward and inelegant.

It's this kind of thinking which led to things like Fuller's Dymaxion Map: why spend all your time trying to fit a round globe onto a single flat sheet, when it makes more sense to break it into triangles and arrange them however you need them? A while ago Mike made what I think is a particularly elegant interactive version of Fuller's project, which he's called the faumaxion map (and which you can read more about here):

Mike and Tom are going to be speaking about the Faumaxion map, data visualization as a medium, and similarly tasty topics this afternoon during their talk: Live, Vast, and Deep: Web-native Information Visualization at UX Week, Adaptive Path's fascinating conference on all things related to user experiences on the web.

Jun 9, 2008

Trulia Snapshot is live

Stamen's new work with awesome real estate powerhouse Trulia (who're going gangbusters btw) is live, at It's an interactive map (of course!) showing photos of homes for sale, and lets you browse across several vectors: most expensive, least expensive, newest on the market, and longest on the market.

One of the things we strive for in our work is to get out of the way of the data that we're working with. The data is the real stuff as it were—and it should be allowed to sing on its own terms. Another way of saying this is that the world itself is much more interesting than any logos or graphics we could lay on top of it. Our faith is that the world is a fascinating place, and that revealing what that world looks like is both worth doing and fun.

What we've tried to do here is to make the photos of the houses themselves the thing that you interact with, and at the same time strike a balance with the map beneath, so that you can get an understanding of the ways that different kinds of homes relate to the landscape. We tried to go more glossy-real-estate-magazine than executive-dashboard; the results are here.

Oh! And there's a 'play' button (Trulia's suggestion; it's so nice to have clients that are smarter than you), so you can kick back & watch your dream home (or foreclosed shacks) stream by. We're' proud to have worked with Ryan Alexander on this one.

Homes in New York

Multiple homes in one location, in Key West

May 14, 2008

Where 2.0 Ignite Presentation

Following on the heels of my illustrious colleagues, I've put up my slides from the Ignite session I did on Monday.

The slides are online here. It was an interesting format to try and get ideas across in; 5 minutes is not very long, and 15 seconds a slide doesn't give you much room to develop anything complicated. But sort of like when I stood up for 6 hours at PC Forum talking to people about Mappr, it's the kind of thing that really teaches you how to get your ideas across, and I'm grateful to Brady for the experience.

I'm particularly pleased to be able to talk a bit about Etienne-Jules Marey, a 19th century French physiologist, photographer and inventor who's something of a hero of mine, and whose work I'm increasingly starting to see as a source of inspiration for the work we do at Stamen. He was among the first to systematically investigate movement and how it can be captured and reproduced, and in addition to his work being scientifically revolutionary it's just plain gorgeous (that's him, below). Something to aspire to. And I have to confess that the pictures of him doing scientific experiments in snazzy suits and hats don't hurt, either.