We've got some new additions to Toner, the black and white style that Geraldine started and that Nathaniel and Mike have been gradually improving this year. There are some fairly significant changes to the cartography stack all the way through, which you can read about in detail at the project's visual changelog on GitHub. And of course everything's open source and available for download as per the terms of the Citytracking grant.
We promised to do this work in public, so here goes. One significant thing we've decided to do is to keep older versions of the project around, so that we (and, hopefully, you) can compare the different versions of the maps. So when Nathaniel talks in his post about "shaving San Francisco's Mohawk" from how it looked in 2010:
to how it looks in 2012, with a better coastline:
you can see it in situ. It's pretty simple to change the urls:
The changes can be fairly visually dramatic, as in the addition of non-Roman scripts to places like Tokyo:
The thing about designing maps is that you're never designing just one view. For one thing, it's important to account for all the different zoom levels: it's about showing more as you zoom in, but it's also about showing different things at different scales. Choices need to be made at every level about the thicknesses of streets, which buildings to show, which city name to show, and so forth. Different places have different characteristics spatially; some are more dense than others, and you have to keep the whole system in mind. These two versions of the zoom into DC, from different years, gives a sense of the range of choices involved:
I'm not aware of any other mapping projects that let you look back in time as a design evolves this way.
We're the cover story (!) of this month's Icon Magazine, featured alongside my longtime heroes at the Center for Land Use Interpretation as part of the maps issue. Ari Messer did a terrific job on the interview, and R.C. Rivera spent an afternoon photographing our plant- and map-filled studio with some lovely results. Unfortunately Shawn wasn't here for the photographing (I think he got married or something, whatever) so it's just Mike and I on the front spread, but overall I'm super happy with the resulting portrait of where the studio is now: 13 people, working in a garden in the middle of a vibrant city, a strong ethic, and maps and visualizations in active use by the public.
There's a lot in the article, but this bit is one I like enough to want to post here. I think it was me, who said:
Stamen finds inspiration everywhere, but Rodenbeck hopes that the public will stop conflating infographics with data visualization. "The rise of the infographic as a genre is a little depressing. Back when desktop publishing started, people were worried that there would be no more room for designers, that computers would do all the work for you. But this clearly didn't turn out to be the case." While someone without design training [or skill -- E] could make use of desktop publishing to create a holiday card or office leaflet or company newsletter, the band at the top for good designers actually grew. In a similar way, he says, "infographics have become the mother's day cards - the company newsletters - of data visualization."
Luckily, my office was a total wreck when R.C. took some pictures of it, but it gives a pretty good sense of what it's like around here these days:
We're proud to announce that Trees, Cabs and Crime will be on display in the U.S. Pavilion at the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale this fall. The Institute for Urban Design was chosen by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs to organize the pavilion this year, which they dubbed Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good and features "projects initiated by American architects and designers aimed at bringing positive change to the public realm."
I made the original rendering on a rainy Sunday in February, 2009, using three data sets:
- The locations of trees under the care of Friends of the Urban Forest, a community of volunteers who plant and maintain nearly 1,000 new trees in San Francisco every year.
- A single day of Yellow Cab taxi locations from Cabspotting.
- A week of SFPD report locations from Crime Reports (crime data wasn't publicly available until later that year, when we launched San Francisco Crimespotting).
My goal was to overlay the three data sets in such a way that overlapping areas would produce new color combinations. So, rather than just overlaying each dot on top of one another, I put each data set into its own "color channel" and combined them with subtractive blending, just like what happens in the CMYK printing process:
The resulting image didn't inspire the a-ha! moment that I'd hope it would, but it turned out to be beautiful nonetheless. And, more importantly, it shows us San Francisco through a lens that nobody had thought to look through before. Without a coastline, streets, or park outlines as reference points, you can still make out the rough shapes of urban activity. You can see that not only is it
hard impossible to catch a cab in the Outer Sunset, but that the neighborhood also has one of the lowest concentrations of trees in the city, and that crime occurs almost exclusively on the named streets running east-west, rather than on the numbered streets running north-south:
The effect works especially well with differently shaped data. Last year we experimented with it on one of the data themes from VPRO's Netherlands from Above, and it looked amazing:
2009 feels like a long time ago, so I'm not too ashamed to admit that I created the original Trees, Cabs & Crime with Flash and a screenshot. Thankfully, though, the IFUD gave me an excuse to recreate the image when they requested a higher resolution copy for printing. So this time around I did it in Python (using Mike's awesome Blit module) and published the source code on Github. I also made a less serious image using nine years of SFPD reports. As you can see, the Mission and the Tenderloin like to party:
The U.S. Pavilion at this year's Venice Biennale will be open from August through November. If you're lucky enough to find yourself in Venice for it, we'd love to know what you thought. And be sure to tweet @stamen if you make something cool with the code!
Nathaniel showcased nearly two years of City Tracking in Boston last Monday at the MIT/Knight Story and the Algorithm conference. You can read about this years' winners here, as well about the changing nature of the grant: shorter cycles, more opportunities to apply, that kind of thing. It's worth a look.
The City Tracking project started off with Dotspotting.org, which allows mapping of data spreadsheets. The project still sees active use, but after we made the Toner tiles available for download we started to notice that more people were expressing interest in the background maps than in the ability to put dots on them.
Responding to public feedback while the project happened was something we were interested in from the start, and http://maps.stamen.com is the result: a browsable, embeddable, and otherwise immediately usable map of the whole world that can be used in Google Maps, Modest Maps, and other mapping APIs without having to download all of OpenStreetMap or tinkering with servers and technical code.
Nathaniel closed with a project we launched in March showing how climate change can be made personal on the street level, instead of the usual course brush strokes, with Climate Central's surging seas project.
These thin slices of big data are bite size morsels of aha. We hope you like them!
Earlier this year we worked with Warner Bros. to create an interactive map called Quarantine Your City on which fans of the latest Oren Peli thriller, Chernobyl Diaries, could vote to see a special screening in their city. The plot follows a group of modern-day American tourists on an "adventure tour" of Pripyat, the site of the infamous nuclear catastrophe at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power plant on April 26, 1986. As you can probably imagine, things don't go quite as planned.
The idea behind the screening competition was that users could "quarantine" their city by voting for it on Twitter or Facebook, which would raise the radiation levels over a certain threshold, and after a couple of weeks would Warner Bros. select the 20 most popular. Here's what it looked like early on:
And after the voting was done:
We used ModestMaps and Easey to build this map. One significant improvement we made over the PA3 map was to squeeze all of the label positioning information for the most populated US cities into a single data file, which makes the whole map feel much more responsive when zooming in and out. We even used image sprite to pack all of the different radiation symbol sizes and color combinations into a single image. Browsers are getting faster by the day, and it's not hard to imagine a near future when we could put a hundred times as many labels as this on a slippy map:
Drawing inspiration from the rusted metal and concrete textures used in the film's advertising materials, and using the same process that we developed for our watercolor maps, Zach and Geraldine created a new map in which land masses are rendered as hunks of crusty, mottled concrete.
Check out the standalone slippy map, or click on the images below.
The texture changes subtly at each zoom level, getting more messed up and contrasty as you go in:
The coastline treatment gets really interesting around places like the San Joaquin River delta and the Chesapeake Bay:
And inland lakes and rivers look more like craters, cuts, fissures and scars:
We're obviously having a lot of fun pushing the boundaries of what's possible with online cartography, and we're getting better and faster at making worldwide maps in the process. If you're looking to get your own maps of the world, and especially if you're looking for maps that look like they've been attacked by a horde of radioactive zombies, do get in touch!
A couple of weeks ago, the video Clouds premiered at the Wired Frames exhibit at Eyebeam in NYC. I had the good fortune of being involved in this project, which was led by documentary filmmaker Jonathan Minard and creative coder James George. The three of us met at the Art&&Code conference in Pittsburgh, in October '11. In addition to attending the conference, we also participated as "labbers" for the four days preceding it. Minard had intended to interview each of the labbers before the conference, and was interested in trying to add Kinect data into the process. It turned out that George had been planning to do a similar mixing of Kinect and DLSR data, so they combined forces.
By the end of the labber session, the pointcloud remix project was born. By mapping real-world color information (through the digital camera) onto points in space (provided by the Kinect), Minard and George had developed a new documentary medium. Realistically coloring a pointcloud was one thing, but this merging of datasets offered the possibility of customizable, remixable video playback. For starters, the camera view did not have to be dictated by the real-life camera position during filming; video playback could include all sorts of pans and zooms. Even more exciting is the possibility of writing code to act on top of the pointcloud, opening up possibilities such as image processing, mesh distortions, or particle systems.
In the beginning of 2012, George got back in touch with the labbers, announcing a video editing program that he had written on top of openFrameworks. Each person was given their interview data, and had the opportunity to remix it in their own way. For my experimentations, I focussed on distorting the mesh of points, as well as tweaking colors. The final compilation of my interview was an exploration of these forms, beginning at a relatively stable form, and then becoming more distorted and crazy as the interview progressed. Below are stills from different sections of the interview, as well as a video of one of the more wild distortions.
We've been working on a travel planner for the Weather Channel that tells you a bit more than just how long it'll take to get from point A to point B. This one predicts what the weather's going to be like along your drive, when you get there.
So let's say you're driving from New York to San Francisco, and you're trying to decide whether to go straight across or loop up or down a bit; this will give you a sense for whether it's going to be rainy or sunny when you plan to be in the middle of Nebraska. You can drag around the rainy bits if you like, and also along the way maybe you'd like to stop for a bite to eat, so we're hitting the Yelp API to give you a sense of where to go and what to see.
As is often the case, the research that goes into building one of these pieces can be as interesting as the final product. As an early stage proof of concept, we put together some images showing all the predictions for weather searches offset by time and location, with some (I think) lovely results:
They start to put me in mind of an early project we did here at Stamen, a set of travel time maps for MySociety that plotted the time it would take to get from one place in London to every other place in London:
I start thinking of weather maps that flow and ebb across the country, where different sliders open and ebb various kinds of other axes: time for sure, but maybe population density, maybe altitude, maybe temperature, maybe how many farms there are, maybe distance from a weather station or a McDonald's—all the different kinds of things that affect people's sense of place and space and time, organized by what's above our heads.
We've just rolled out a new way for you to make atlases of the world, called Field Papers and made with our friends at Caerus Associates. Field Papers allows you to print a multipage paper atlas of anywhere in the world and take it outside, offline, into the field. You can scribble on it, add features, or make notes about the area, all without a GPS or complicated GIS software.
Once you've annotated your atlas, you can upload photographs of each page back into the system to transcribe your notes into digital form. Each atlas gets its own page on Field Papers, and a simple history of edits and activity which you can share with friends or colleagues, and download for later analysis. Take a look at some of the atlases that have already been created on the Watch page, or browse by place, like France or Liberia.
The interface looks like this:
This project is a continuation of Walking Papers, which was built for the OpenStreetMap (OSM) editing community. Field Papers allows you to print multiple-page atlases using several map styles (including satellite imagery and black and white cartography to save ink) and has built in note annotation tools with GIS format downloads. You can also create a Field Papers account to collect any atlases you create or snapshots you upload, or you can stay anonymous. Maps from the two systems work together if you want OSM editing (see below).
Field Papers also offers several automation and map customization tools for more geo-inclined people, and the open source code is on Github.
Why not try making an atlas at Field Papers?
I still remember those long lost days when an "interactive website" meant a site that had a mouseover effect on the navigation bar. How far we've come. Working with the fantastic, bold branding, we created a Twitter Tracker for Logo TV's 2012 NewNowNext Awards that aired on April 6.
The animations on the site are crazy interactive:
2012 NewNowNext Awards Twitter Tracker from Stamen on Vimeo.
As we watched the show unfold, and the tweets get tweeted, it was super fun to see the NNN community rally around performers they like, and start to use the tracker to bump up attention.
Congratulations to all the winners, and to all the Tweeters who pushed their favorite stars into the coveted #1 spot!
There are cupcakes with Stamen maps on them. Each one has a single tile printed on it. Cups and Cakes Bakery baked and prepared them. They were made for the Where 2.0 conference, where Mike is talking about how Old Is The New New and I am talking about Drawing Outside the Lines, which taken together is a pretty good indication of where Stamen's collective thoughts are.
THERE ARE CUPCAKES WITH STAMEN MAPS ON THEM.