We're pleased to be featured in a second design exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Talk To Me, curated by Paola Antonelli and opening to the press tonight.
Our team have two pieces in the exhibit: prettymaps, the open data yellow-and-green smorgasbord that we accounced last year, and Walking Papers, the Open Street Map-based project on display for a few more days at the Art Institute of Chicago. We also designed the accompanying website for the exhibit, currently availabile in beta at http://moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2011/talktome.
Projects on the site are connected in a variety of ways: the curators have categorized the works into objects, maps, and double entendres, among other things, and numerous projects' curated categorisations overlap. The artists themselves are more or less connected in different ways: Aaron and Mike both work at Stamen, for example, and we have a strong set of interconnected twitter relationships with our friends at Berg and the Really Interesting Group, both with a presence in the show.
We decided to pull all these relationships into a single value: how related is this one project to others in the show, and by how much? And give the viewer the option to adjust how many related projects they wanted to see. Scrolling lets you decide whether you want to focus on the artwork in question, or have the rest of the catalog crowd in.
The Big Red Button:
Rubiks Cube for the Blind:
Locals and Tourists:
Here and There:
Most online maps are designed to help you get around in a car. This generally means displaying: roads, businesses, buildings, on-ramps, parks, oceans and traffic congestion. Nothing wrong with that! Designers get handed a tool kit that has as many tools as a good swiss army knife, and the maps reflect these tools. Millions of people use them to make appointments across town, find restaurants, and drive home for the holidays.
But what if, instead of a swiss army knife, we used a box of crayons? Or charcoal and newsprint? Or play-doh? What would those maps look like? What could they tell us about the world?
Working with the smart people at MapQuest Open, we've put together a new set of interactive maps using OpenStreetMap data that explore this question. It's called "map=yes", and it has three objectives:
- To explore new possibilities for online mapping in a world of increasingly open data sources like Open Street Map, the world-wide Wikipedia for maps built by volunteers.
- To highlight the kinds of things that are possible now that MapQuest has committed to supporting their own OSM XAPI (pronounced "zappy"), or Extensive Application Programming Interface.
- To have fun! Maps that look like they came out of Sin City are rad, and there should be more of them.
One of the central tenets of the Knight News Challenge grant for Citytracking was that the work would happen in public, and that we'd make the work public as we go. The project has been downloadable on GitHub for some time now, and will continue to be so, and we're announcing today the availability of the source files for Toner, the online cartographic style that underlies the project.
We're considering a few different options for hosting these tiles long-term; supporting a few hundred users is all well and good, but having the whole world hammer on a custom tile server is going to take some doing. Interested parties, please get in touch! The project needs your input.
In the meantime, here are examples of some of the world's tonier (see what I did there?) areas:
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
Champ De Mars (Eiffel Tower), Paris
Champ De Mars (Eiffel Tower) 2, Paris
Cross-posted on PBS Idea blog
Dotspotting.org is officially live with some new features and swanky new cartography.
Cross-posted on PBS Idea Lab
The project has been in a partially-completed stage for a few months now, and I've blogged about the project before. We've got a few new things to announce:
- The url is now http://dotspotting.org; no more of this stamen subdomain stuff
- The cartography is completely revised, with a severe black-and-white style we're calling toner, in a gentle nod to the halftone process that newspapers use (the project's funded by the Knight News Challenge after all). We've intentionally stripped back the level of detail at most zoom levels in favor of a style that lets the dots on top shine through, while hopefully remaining legible enough for lots of uses.
- We've torn the guts out of the uploading process, which was giving us no end of heartache, and rebuilt it from scratch. It turns out, much to my chagrin (and having been told this ad nauseum by various people at Stamen) that geocoding of is hard, dude and best left to the professionals. Another, less gentle way of saying this is that we've switched over from Yahoo's absolutely rassa-frassin' useless geocoding service and started using Google's amazing service, and so.
- We've also moved from a model where all of this was happening server-side, which is how we orignally had hoped things could work, to one where the process is split into two, distinct processes: first, we check to see what kind of data you're trying to submit, second, we try and turn it into geographically relevant data, and third, we run it through google's geocoder. My advice to anyone who is embarking on this kind of venture in future is simple: do not try and do this stuff server side unless you want to make it the core of your business. You will go down an endless rabbit hole and it will take you months to come out.
- We've changed the way we think about geocoding, after taking some hard knocks. Rather than trying to accommodate a kind of abstract geographic information space of addresses and file formats and latitudes and longitudes, we've decided to pick a few, representative set of data formats that are pegged to specific examples of data out in the real world, make it work for those, point people at those formats, and work backwards from there. All of the files that dotspotting can handle are now in a folder for people to browse, and the FAQ has specific examples of how to work with these files. I hadn't fully understood the complexities involved in geocoding different data formats, and that's meant that we had to hold things up for much longer than they needed to be. Mea culpa.
But it's live now, and we're working with a few different groups to make it even better, in the spirit of using real data to solve real problems. Onwards!
(please note: this position has been filled)
Stamen Design is an internationally-recognized leader in the design of mapping and data visualization projects, located in San Francisco's Mission District. We are engaged in an active process of growing our capacity and are looking to hire an Operations and Finance Director who can help the studio develop a thriving and sustainable model for growth, while maintaining the unique and innovative culture that has defined Stamen since 2001. We are always growing in one way or another, and we need a level head and a battle-seasoned operator to manage the operations side of our business so we can continue to deliver outstanding work for our clients.
Requirements and experience:
- Capacity to future-think, while maintaining the ability to operate in the present. This is a big thinking, set strategy kind of job. It's also a get down and dirty, call the client who hasn't paid their bill, fill out the Google Spreadsheet, and figure out why the bank password isn't working kind of job. We'll need you to design and own the processes you need to do great work.
- Prior experience in helping a service organization facilitate its way through growing pains while helping to hold the vision of where it is going as an organization. We are 12 people now and we need someone who understands what it means to be here. We want you to know enough about organizations like ours to be able to have an opinion about what we do.
- Ability to not only deliver at the operational level, but have the foresight to ask questions about what you see, in order to enable the studio to achieve its goals.
- A systems-driven hybrid who can relate to the operations of Stamen with phenomenal integrity for the people who work here. Attention to detail is essential for this job.
- Experience in how to leverage existing capacity within an organization and turn it into what we need to deliver on the other side.
- Possess a natural people sense, and understand how to translate the operational and financial to people.
Key responsibilities include the following:
- Financial planning and reporting, including monitoring and budgeting project revenues, costs and cash flows
- Accounts payable and accounts receivable
- Work closely with project managers to ensure scheduling and timely completion of all deliverables
- HR and staff-related activities
- Marketing and communications oversight
- Development of metrics to measure organizational and financial goals
- Design of feedback loops necessary to achieve team happiness and organizational effectiveness
- Proactively identify places that are problems, and proactive presentation of these issues. Manage the CEO's needs for reporting on all operations and finance-related aspects of the business
- 5-10 years of operations and finance experience. An MBA would be nice but experience will count for more
- A deep interest and passion in design and technology
- Excellent writing and presentation ability, and critical thinking skills
- Proven ability to plan and execute resourcefully, with minimal supervision, and to work effectively in a fast-paced, dynamic environment
- Ability to thrive in a collaborative problem-solving environment while also working independently, juggling multiple priorities and deadlines, and accomplishing tasks on time
- Exemplary interpersonal skills
$ commensurate with experience.
Stamen pays full health and vision and dental for all our employees.
If this sounds like you, and you'd like to work with a group of interesting and interested people who are serious about what they do and how much fun they have doing it, please send your resume and a bit about you to email@example.com. No phone calls please
The OneBayArea Travel Map that we worked on with the good people at MIG, Inc is live at http://maps.onebayarea.org/, and shows you approximately how far you can get from any point in the Bay Area by car, public transit, bike, or on foot, at particular times of the day. You can filter your view by the travel time between areas, and the median price of homes in each area.
Here's where you can get from Stamen in the morning, by public transit (Muni and BART), within 30 minutes (all of these images link out to the right configuration of the maps btw):
Your range is limited much further in the evening:
It turns out that you can get a lot further by bike. Note how the time of day doesn't matter here because bikes aren't limited by transit schedules or traffic congestion:
Let's say, though, that you were in the market for a home and wanted to know where you could buy that you could get to work by bike in a half an hour. Filtering out areas with homes averaging $500,000 or less cuts out a large swath of San Francisco:
If you're okay with a 45-minute bike ride, though, there may be a place for you a bit further down the peninsula:
What if you're Mike, though, and you live in the East Bay? Here's where he can get by public transit in 30 minutes in the morning. Note how BART can get him to the Embarcadero or San Leandro more quickly than most of the areas between there and downtown Oakland:
If we crank up the travel time to 45 minutes, most of downtown San Francisco and the Mission become accessible:
We've just completed a mapping/data visualization project for One.org, the watchdog group that tracks the G8 and EU's spending commitments to Africa. The site represents each member country as a flag-filled circle, sized according to the relative size of that country's contribution. We track and display four variables for each country: percentage of total income, total dollar amount, amount to sub-Saharan Africa, and per-capita amounts. It's been interesting to spend time exploring the different aspects of this: from a amount given per-capita perspective Norway blows everyone else out of the water, but from a total dollars point of view they're actually quite small. The Norwegians, it appears, are generous, but poor. The urls change too as you interact with the piece, so if you want, say, to link to dollar amounts in 2005 you're all good.
Two things about the project:
- It was pretty strange working on a site where the client's name is "One." Eventually it got too weird to say "you've got a call with One at three" or "One just wants one more thing" so eventually we started calling the project "Garth" since that's who we were talking with most of the time.
- This was the first time we've worked with the excellent design team at Mule Design and I can't say enough good about them or recommend them strongly enough; what a lovely and professional bunch of people. Thanks Mule!
Sometimes I wish I could be as disciplined as my friends at Berg, who've been faithfully writing up weeknotes rain or shine for 308 weeks now. These days it's a struggle to even participate in all the things that are going on around the studio, much less write about it. In my head sometimes we're still just a couple guys sitting in a room smoking cigarettes and staying up until five in the morning [really]. The reality is that we've been up at around the ten-person mark for a couple of years now, almost half of us are women, I quit smoking 2 years ago, and these days I'm much more likely to see 5 in the morning by waking up that early than by staying up that late! In any event it's Friday afternoon and I didn't want to let another week go by without talking about at least some of the work that's been going on, so:
We're doing a pile of thinking about the background tiles that are the foundation of most of the maps that people are working with on line today. There's a ton of room to play here. For a little context, one of the earliest experiments with embedding information into these background images we did was with a model of San Francisco provided to us by SOM a while back. The first render was a fairly conventional one, a grayscale view with shadows and so forth:
In the second render, you take the block and lot number of each building, and use those to generate different colors for the buildings:
When you overlay the first (image) on top of the second (data), you can do this kind of thing:
Selectively blurring and unblurring complex shapes on the fly, in the browser. And since you know the logic you used to generate the background color from the block and lot number, you can extrapolate back out from the color to the lot number, and provide links to the City Assessor's records for those buildings, without having to send all that data down the wire. Which is kind of cool. We've used this in a couple of client projects over the years, and are currently working on a mapping project that's going to rely on this kind of thing in a pretty big way.
I mention all of this by way of segue into the problem that starts to come up when you start wanting to do this for the whole world. It takes about 360 billion tiles to cover the whole world down to zoom level 20. Which is alot, especially considering that most of them are in the ocean.
So here are some lovely things that Aaron's been working on, in part to find a way to more easily limit the areas that the tiles have to get drawn for:
Each continent gets a set number of discontinuous shapes that it's allowed to be made up of, and depending on the number of those that are allowed (the second image allows alot more than the first), you can start to generate coastlines that designate areas where you probably don't need to render tiles at very zoomed in levels. Plus, as is usual with Aaron's stuff, it's fun to look at.
Stamen was featured in the New York Times business section yesterday. Like, the actual paper version of the paper, the one with the crossword puzzle (thanks John Poisson for the photo):
Three things are insanely great about this:
- We're there alongside industry smarties like Hans Rosling, Ben Shneiderman, and Jim Bartoo. This is good company.
- We got to draw some attention to our friends at MondoWindow, whose new site is totally kick ass.
- My mom called me yesterday and said that not only does she understand what I do now, she's also proud of me. Thanks, Mom!
Today's the day to announce, along with Laughing Squid and CNET, the public beta of Mondo Window, which lets you see what you're looking at out your airplane window. As far as we know, this is the first site designed specifically for use with in-flight internet, but those bragging rights are less important than the fact that now YOU CAN FIND OUT WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING AT OUT THE WINDOW OF THE PLANE YOU ARE FLYING IN.
The idea is that, if you're online and in the air (and the Mondo Window guys have been blowing my mind with the technical, infrastructural and business models that allow this to happen), you can access the various APIs that track where all the planes are. And if you can do that, and you know what plane you're on, Mondo Window can more or less know where your plane is. And if we know that, and we know more or less how high your plane is, then we know what you can see out the window on both sides of the plane. And then we can show you relevant Wikipedia and Flickr content, and Bob's your uncle!
We've been working hard on the project with Greg Dicum, Tyler Freeman and Tyler Sterkel at our studio for the past two months, in a rapid cycle of conceptualize-develop-deploy cycle that often turned over in a single day. The team took over one of the extra rooms off the main corridor, a situation that made me really happy as it's the kind of thing I hoped would happen we moved into a too-big space, and I'm really pleased that Mike led this effort inside the studio.
The site was launched with an eye towards capturing the attention of the rampaging hordes of geeks heading to South by SouthWest on nerd birds in the coming days, so we've concentrated on providing content for the parts of the country that people are likely to be flying over as they take commercial flights to Austin. I love this map that Greg drew for us at the early stages of the project, showing the parts of the country that people are likely to be flying over as they head to Austin:
Of course, it doesn't cover the routes that the investors from Jackson Hole are taking in their private jets, but that's the web for you.