Stamen is a design and technology studio in San Francisco.

You are at Stamen's first blog, mostly written by Eric Rodenbeck. Visit our new blog! or come visit us at our newly designed

Contact Stamen, or follow us on Twitter

Recent blog posts

May 9, 2008

Stamen out in public

Where2.0, Tonight:

I'm doing an Ignite session tonight at O'Reilly's Where 2.0 conference in Burlingame. I've never done an Ignite before: the idea is you have 20 slides and 20 slides only, and they auto-advance every 15 seconds, and 15 seconds only. Usually when I talk, I start warming up after the first 10 minutes, so it should be interesting to take my by-now-familiar caffeine-fueled ranting style about beautiful maps and condense it down into the essentials:

Mapping Now: Dynamic Realtime Maps and Other Pictures
Maps are never pefect representations of reality, and increasingly they're out of date before they're finished. Complicating matters, mapping of live phenomena (geospatial or otherwise) is becoming more and more prevelant, and even expected. Looking back to earlier representations of movement can help us figure out how to represent the fluid spaces that mapping is moving in to.

The talk is open to the public, and is at the SFO Marriott tonight at 7pm.

Some Other Goodness:

Mike and Tom have posted notes from their Visual Urban Data: A Journey Through Oakland Crimespotting talk at the Berkeley School of Information. It was a different kind of format than we usually do, and it's great for me to see a whole talk given over to a single project (usually we do a more wham-bam overview of our work). Mike's slides are here, and Tom's are here. My favorite of the bunch is this one, where Mike shows all the different icons that the official Oakland crime map uses to show the different kinds of crimes:

Gotta love those 8-bit syringes!

Mike gave a followup talk at the ISchool to a group of journalists, and videos of that talk are online here and here, or you can watch them below:

Also, a talk that Adam Greenfield graciously invited me to in February at New York's New Museum of Contemporary Art has been posted to we-make-money-not-art:

Nextcity: The Art of the Possible 3/5 (Eric Rodenbeck, Stamen Design) from Rhizome on Vimeo.

"The Frank Sinatra of data visualization," HA! Thanks, Regine.

And finally, there's a Guardian article talking about how Boris Johnson, newly elected Lord Mayor of London, has made his promise of live crime maps for London a core part of his campaign. We'll be watching (and maybe participating in?) this closely, for sure. It's really happening...

Apr 24, 2008

Mike at Web 2.0 with Twitter's Alex Payne

Well, the Web 2.0 Expo is here in San Francisco this week, extending its delightfully O'Reillyesque tentacles into every nook and cranny of town—including a takeover of South Park—epicenter of the first round of Internet hilarity back in the late '90s. The town is full of nerds and marketing types alike, City Hall is all lit up, and you can't go near SOMA without tripping over all the discarded conference badges.

Stamen's part in these shenanigans was played by partner Mike Migurski, who, along with Twitter engineer Alex Payne, presented Design Your API: Learnings from Twitter and Stamen. Mike's got a post up about the talk, Matt McAlister has provided a nice writeup, as has Eric Nguyen at Mindtangle.

Aside from the tickle I get at seeing "Twitter and Stamen" on the marquee, the thing about this that makes me happy is that there seems to be a growing openness to the idea that it's the way things fit together that matters online—that it's all well and good to have an excellent site, but if people can't quickly and easily access the data on their own terms, you'll only be able to involve them so far. And I love that people are responding well to the idea that the simple Excel spreadsheets that Crimespotting makes available are just as important and useful for making data about cities available as the more complex APIs that projects like Cabspotting or Diggmake available.

Alex and Mike put their presentation up on Slideshare; you can get a sense of what they talked about below.

Apr 14, 2008

New gallery work and talk in Minneapolis

We're glad to be participating in W(e are )here, a gallery show/series of events/map-making party in Minneapolis put on by Solution Twin Cities and Intermedia Arts:

Recent developments in technology are expanding the ways we communicate the concept of "where." Online mapping and info-graphic applications are allowing artists, amateurs, and armchair cartographers to chart the intangibility of "place," etching their own impressions, emotions, and experiences onto the physical world around them. Embracing this new paradigm, the artists in this exhibit are charting unique territories while working towards the development of an emerging visual language that connects place, moment, and emotion across varied scales. Where is expanding. W(e are )here.

Stamen's Tom Carden has put together a custom view onto the Twin Cities' unique pattern of housing development for the show (based on our work with awesome real estate aggregator Trulia), and I'm giving a lecture on "Visualizing Urban Data Streams" at the University of Minnesota this evening, delivered in my by-now-familiar rapid-fire stream-of-consciousness hand-wavy style. So if you like interactive animations where cities bloom and spread like some incredibly long-lived malevolent flower, go see the show; if you like watching a guy in a suit rave about why it's interesting, come to the lecture. Come to both!

Feb 29, 2008

Stamen at ETech

Tom and I are heading down to San Diego tomorrow for O'Reilly's ETech. We're both speaking, but on separate mornings: Tom's running a workshop and I'm giving a brief morning keynote. Tom's taken on the demanding task of doing a three hour(!) workshop and providing a comprehensive review of what we've been up to for the last few years, and I've really enjoyed seeing a view on our projects as thoughtful as his. I've got the easy job; all I have to do is get up on stage and show 15 minutes of the sexy stuff.

ETech 2008

This will be my first ETech, so I'm not really sure what to expect. It's got a reputation as the ultimate nerd-fest, which is a bit intimidating, but means there'll be alot to learn. I'm optimistic that the O'Reilly people seem to be living up to their reputation as framing "the ideas, projects, and technologies lurking just below the mainstream radar." moving away from the straight up "Web 2.0" topics which seem to have moved well up above the mainstream radar by now.

My pals Alex Steffen, David Pescovitz, and Justin Hall are all speaking, & I'm curious to see what JC Herz will reference when she talks about Web Visualization: Beyond RSS Lava Lamps, which will provide "a 90-second blipvert overview of the shiny vizporn and kinetic data sculptures to date [and] why they’re not useful" :)

Feb 12, 2008

Cabspotting in MoMA: Design and the Elastic Mind

Stamen is proud to announce that Cabspotting, our project with San Francisco's Exploratorium, Scott Snibbe and Amy Balkin, will be part of an upcoming show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The exhibition, Design and the Elastic Mind, opens to the public on February 24, 2008.

The show is a survey of work at the intersection of design and science, and from what I know, the roster of participants reads like a who's who of people I've admired for a long time (although I can't seem to find a list of them on the web anywhere - MoMA?). It's nice company to be in. From the exhibition catalog:

"In the past few decades, individuals have experienced dramatic changes in some of the most established dimensions of human life: time, space, matter, and individuality. Working across several time zones, traveling with relative ease between satellite maps and nanoscale images, gleefully drowning in information, acting fast in order to preserve some slow downtime, people cope daily with dozens of changes in scale. Minds adapt and acquire enough elasticity to be able to synthesize such abundance. One of design's most fundamental tasks is to stand between revolutions and life, and to help people deal with change. Designers have coped with these displacements by contributing thoughtful concepts that can provide guidance and ease as science and technology evolve. Several of them—the Mosaic graphic user's interface for the Internet, for instance—have truly changed the world. Design and the Elastic Mind is a survey of the latest developments in the field. It focuses on designers' ability to grasp momentous changes in technology, science, and social mores, changes that will demand or reflect major adjustments in human behavior, and convert them into objects and systems that people understand and use.

"The exhibition will highlight examples of successful translation of disruptive innovation, examples based on ongoing research, as well as reflections on the future responsibilities of design. Of particular interest will be the exploration of the relationship between design and science and the approach to scale. The exhibition will include objects, projects, and concepts offered by teams of designers, scientists, and engineers from all over the world, ranging from the nanoscale to the cosmological scale. The objects range from nanodevices to vehicles, from appliances to interfaces, and from pragmatic solutions for everyday use to provocative ideas meant to influence our future choices. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue."

While Cabspotting is going to be actually hanging in the MoMA (holy f**k!), I'm also gratified by the inclusion of our work with Digg in the exhibition's printed catalog, and that Graffiti Archaeology and Trulia Hindsight will be featured on the exhibition website. I've often dreamed of having a project featured in the MoMA; having four in one show is frankly a bit overwhelming.

For the exhibit, we've re-factored the project so that it works in a gallery setting—we didn't want to just put the website up on the wall and walk away. This is somewhat new territory for us, as almost all of our work is done from start to finish on the web, but I'm excited to see the studio growing in new directions (this is the whole point, right?). Over time, we're changing the piece's variables: taxi speed, trail length and dot size all grow and shrinking in a continously varying series of Brian Eno-type oscillations, so the piece is never quite the same from frame to frame and changes quite a bit when you look at it. A small screenshot:

Cabspotting at MoMa

Shawn has been heading up the project and is heading to New York tomorrow for the install, and we're very glad to have had Gabriel Dunne designing and developing the installation with us.

See you at the Museum?

Feb 10, 2008

Oakland Crimespotting is back online, huzzah

(cut and pasted from a mail that Mike sent out this evening):

Crimes mapped in Oakland

Hello Everyone,

We’re happy to announce that Oakland Crimespotting is back, thanks to the generous help of Oakland’s City Information Technology Department. After three months without access to report data, we’ve been granted a reliable, regularly-updated source of crime report information. This is great news: it means that the website is back up and running with current information, e-mail alerts and RSS feeds work again, and we at Stamen Design can explore new ways of presenting and publishing this important information.

Here are a few things you can do, now:

Visit the site at
View a map at
Sign up for alerts at

We are also interested in what additions to the site you would find useful or interesting. So far, we’ve had a number of suggestions that we’re actively looking into: spreadsheet-friendly downloads, details on individual police beats, a search function, and more than one month’s worth of data. If you have any thoughts on these or other ideas, send us a mail at

Our return would not have been possible without the help of a few key people. Ahsan Baig, Ken Gordon, and Bob Glaze at Oakland City IT built and published a source of information for us. Ted Shelton, Charles Waltner, and others helped us navigate the difficult waters of City Hall communications. Jason Schultz, Ryan Wong, Karla Ruiz, and Jeremy Brown at U.C. Berkeley Law School helped us understand how to best approach city governments for information. Kathleen Kirkwood and Pete Wevurski at The Oakland Tribune helped us understand the journalistic context of the project. Dan O'Neil and Adrian Holovaty at were a valuable sounding boards for ideas.

As for me, I'm delighted to see it back online, and especially pleased that the City has given us access to the data. In particular, this notion that cities have an obligation to provide access to data about themselves over the internet is one that I think (and hope) we're going to see catching on more and more, and it's great that Oakland has decided to take a progressive stance on this issue. If you're reading this, and you're a city with a need to learn more about your data and how it flows, do give us a call, won't you?

Jan 30, 2008

Two Talks

I'm in Vancouver for the next few days at Web Directions North, where I'll be talking about Information Visualization as a Medium


"Information visualization is becoming more than a set of tools and technologies and techniques to understand large data sets. It is emerging as a medium in its own right, with a wide range of expressive potential.
"Stamen’s work in visualization and mapping is among the most high profile online today, with the live dynamic displays at Digg Labs and Cabspotting being just two of many examples. The studio’s approach is deeply pragmatic, always starting with real data and aiming to work with graphics on screen as soon as possible. Though all analysis is a work in progress, a project is usually finished when it shows something nobody has seen before, or builds a vocabulary for describing a system, or offers more questions than answers. And then the process begins again."

Update (Jan 31 2pm PST): The MySociety maps I talked about in my talk today are online here, and Tom has done a very nice writeup on his blog. I haven't had time to officially put the project on Stamen yet, and a few people have asked about it. Go look!

And then on Feb. 8, I'll be speaking in New York alongside Adam Greenfield, J. Meejin Yoon, and Christian Nold at the New Museum's Nextcity: The Art of the Possible:

Adam's blurb:

"Emergent digital technologies are rapidly changing both the face of our cities and our daily experience of them, whether invoked in the production of architectural form, the representation of urban space, or our interface to the locative and other services newly available there. Dynamic maps update in real time; garments and spaces deform in response to environmental, biological and even psychological conditions. We find our very emotions made visible, public, and persistently retrievable. Somewhere along the way, we find our notions of public space, participation, and what it means to be urban undergoing the most profound sort of change."

Jan 13, 2008

Happy 2008!

Well it's a little late to be writing an end-of-2007 wrap-up, but perhaps that's OK. Last year I think I made my "plan for the year" in, well, May 2007, so things are moving in the right direction.

In any event 2007 was an exciting year for us here at Stamen: we delivered work to an outstanding group of clients, we travelled all over the place talking about our medium to audiences large and small, and we strengthened our bonds with several smart and wonderful colleagues who have changed the way we work and play for the better. The studio is growing in some important ways, and we're working hard to keep our eye on doing beautiful and innovative work as the demands of being known for this kind of work start to increase.

We're pleased and grateful to have been given the opportunity to work with smart, inspiring, and forward-thinking clients and collaborators. I'm particularly excited to see a demand for beautiful and useful mapping and data visualization in areas that we never anticipated, and I'm thrilled at the way Stamen is part of what happens as this incredible field takes off in a big way. A few examples:

Jan 4, 2008

Digg Pics is live

Digg Pics is a dynamic visualization of images as people vote for them.

Generally, when we work on a new visualization, we start with data that is already flowing, and look for interesting patterns or tendencies that already exist. In Digg's case, this is usually a particularly fruitful process because of the tremendous volume and interconnectedness of the data that flows through the site every day.

When it came time to visualize Digg's newly launched images section, though, we found ourselves needing to get started on it before the section was live and running. So we had to improvise. We decided to use images from, an image bookmarking service that we use alot around the studio, as a source for the images, and use general Digg traffic as the source for the continuous flow of interrelated content that people care about.

We started off by taking a look at the spread in the number of diggs that we could expect, and dynamically sizing and placing the images accordingly:

Size and position study

Nov 20, 2007

Splatter: now (re) available for download

Our belated apologies to all the people who've been asking for the source code for splatter for the last month or so— we upgraded our publishing software and some loose ends never got resolved.

Splatter #1

The project page has been updated with a new link to the appropriate files, or you can download it here. Updates on what we've been up to for the last few months coming soon.