Stamen is a design and technology studio in San Francisco.

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Apr 8, 2013

Parklets, private bus networks and open source have more in common than you think

Later today, I'll be joining a panel discussion at SPUR talking about how urban agents are changing our cities, with local design and infrastructure smarties like Raphael Garcia from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission & Nancy Levinson from Design Observer.

On my radar: welcome urban innovations like parklets, less-popular (or at least more controversial) private bus lines to Silicon Valley and how a new kind of practice is emerging that works with open source software and data to bridge the divide.

New actors are forcing change in from the edges, outside of traditional power structures and narratives and in ways that challenge our assumptions about what cities are for and how they should be run.

If you can't make it this afternoon (details here), I'll be posting the talk later on.

Apr 5, 2013

Pow! Thwok! Happy Monday.

Lock Batman, Hulk, Iron Man, Catwoman, a mercenary Snow White and antihero Bilbo Baggins in a room. Make 'em fight. Who wins? Our latest social vote project for MTV's 2013 Movie Awards gives a realtime window into this virtual bloodbath.


Leading up to the April 14 awards show, fans are casting votes for this year's best cinematic superhero by hashtagging photos on Instagram. The best pics—get out those cat ears and polish your power poses!—will be aired during the live awards show.

Since 2009, Stamen's been working with MTV to bring social to the small screen with real-time Twitter visualizations. Working with Mass Relevance the heroes project takes this one step further: user photos featured on the site get classic comic book captions in keeping with each character, and you can comment and vote on Instagram for your favorites.

Mar 27, 2013


Stamen has been working with 3d data from HERE for a few months now, and it's time to start being public about that.

You can skip to the good stuff by heading over to and explore for yourself, or take a look at what follows for some more details & rationale.

The Story:

Here, a Nokia business, has spent decades building a deep library of map data, and we've been given a broad remit to investigate how designers and developers can use that data to innovate and explore an ecosystem built around the idea of 'living maps.' The idea is: take a look at the broad range of data that drives the HERE product portfolio, help to figure out the best ways to release the right bits of that data to developers so that a healthy ecosystem can flourish around it, and build prototype projects on top of that platform to light the way.

As you can imagine, HERE has all kinds of data, from driving directions to base cartography to extensive LIDAR surveys of worldwide cities. We've looked under the hood at a variety of these, and evaluated them on several different axes: complexity, comprehensiveness, uniqueness, and accessibility. We tried to find, for the initial release of this work, a sweet spot where we could find (as we do) the next most obvious thing—a dataset that was right on the edge of being useful and interesting to a broader public, one that hadn't been widely used before, and that was accessible to us as new HERE partners. We wanted to be professional amateurs here; coming in from the point of view of a newbie developer without a lot of experience navigating corporate hierarchies who just wanted to make something cool without getting lost in this wealth of data, and see where we could end up.

The What:

It's taken us a little while, and we've had a number of false starts (we're talking about a lot of data here), but! I think we've found something lovely and potentially quite interesting in the data that's being used to run HERE Maps, which launched late last year. is an impressive accomplishment—full on 3d maps of multiple cities around the world, beautifully rendered and browsable everywhere—but as lovely as it is, developers and designers have yet to really take advantage of what's possible with all this content.

The exercise started with some code that our friend and former colleague Mike Migurski started playing with about a year ago to extract HERE data from their 3D tiles. Along the way several people at Stamen weaponized that code, HERE made their data available for us to play with, and we used it to build out maps of four global cities: San Francisco, New York, London and Berlin. We built a framework sitting on top of that that lets this data be embedded, linked to, layered on top of, and generally made internet-happy in a way that we hope will let a thousand flowers bloom.

And so!

For your viewing, embedding, linking, and otherwise internet-ing pleasure: is live today. It uses 3D data from HERE for San Francisco, New York, London, and Berlin to create city-wide 3D browsable maps, and it does this in the browser (though you'll need a WebGL-enabled browser to see it). As in many of our other mapping projects, the urls change dynamically depending on location and other factors, and the data conforms, more or less, to the Tile Map Service specification. What this means, among other things, is that it's not only possible to link to and embed these maps at specific locations and zoom levels, but that it's easy—and as we've seen with Citytracking, easy is good.

In the meantime we're starting on a round of design work that uses these in-browser 3D maps as the basis for what we hope will be a whole new suite of consumer applications and projects. For now we encourage you to poke around under the hood and think about doing the same.

One caveat: early days! In keeping with the philosophy that it's better to release early and release often than to wait until everything is perfect. It's a prototype, not a final release, so it's not entirely production-ready and may have some rough edges. Please send us feedback and we'll keep you posted as we kick things further down the road.

New York:

Starting with New York, because its downtown, from this perspective, looks like something out of Game of Thrones, which is awesome:

And! Once you've got this set up, flipping this one-line code switch in three.js:

{wireframe: true}

changes the material that covers each object and gets you a ghostly see-through wire model of New York (focused here on the New York Public Library's main branch at Bryant Park, made entirely out of the edges of things:

San Francisco:

Moving to our home town of San Francisco, we can pivot the Golden Gate Bridge around and give it a good look:

It's also fairly straightforward to bring other, publicly-available datasets into this environment and do things with them (this will come up again!). For example, pulling in the building footprints that the City of San Francisco makes public, showing only the outlines, and coloring them by height, gets you this business:

And! Since the data now uses the same syntax as the rest of the internet, it's possible to bring map data in from other services as well. Here we've got tiles from our watercolor maps project, draped over the 3d buildings model (savvy mapping nerd types will notice that both URLs end in #17/37.79560/-122.40091, which makes this possible and is in some ways the whole point of the exercise:

Again: rough! you can see some seams! but progress, and an object to think with.


In a spirit of play, we've left things a bit rough and funky around the edges, so that when you get too close to the Fernsehturm, things get a bit awkward:

(first person to post a picture of Sutro Tower from the inside gets a prize)

And Mehringplatz is just lovely:


By the time we get to London, this is pretty much just Mike Tahani showing off. The London Eye stands out nicely in wireframe:

Parliament looms over the Thames:

Tower Bridge rising up out of a faceted wire-Thames:

And Hyde Park has a kind of video game look about it because of the forced parallax that spreads the trees out around the edges:

OK. More cities, datasets and examples to come as they're available, but this for now: go play!

Feb 14, 2013

Questions from Webstock

As I've done before once or twice, I got excited enough talking about the projects we've been working on that I ran a bit over during my talk today and didn't get to the questions I wanted to ask the lovely audience at Webstock to help me answer. Suddenly there was a "0 minutes left" sign (woulda been nice if that were bigger and brighter, you guys), and boom! tIme to turn it over to Robin Sloan who said about the Big Black Mariah what I've had in mind for some time, of course much better than I ever could.

As I said, I've done this once or twice before, but these questions are important enough to me that I'd like to get them out in public so I take them seriously. So—bearing in mind that this was intended to be narrated by me, is super-early in their cogitation and public discussion—here's the question part of my talk in pdf format. For those not in a downloading mood, here are the basic questions, & some screenshots.

1. how things look: now & then

Mapping and data visualization today look a certain way. They look, in some ways, like early photography used to look, and here's why:

  • Both are all about the tech; you ve to be a nerd to do it
  • There's lots of talk around about what it is and what it isn’t
  • There's lots of talk about what it’s “really for”

Let's get specific: Twitter visualizations, pretty soon, are going to look as archaic as this picture of me in jail in 1895:

There's also Louis Kahn that I want to finally think about in public. "You say to brick: 'what do you want, brick?' And brick says to you: 'I like an arch.' And if you say to brick: 'look, arches are expensive, and I could use a concrete lintel over you - what do you think of that, brick?' Brick says: 'I like an arch.' " There's something here about digital media, especially as we get a better sense for what the form of the medium is like, moving out of the early days of photography/data.

So my question for this one is: Where else can this analogy go? I think Robin Sloan probably has a stack of answers and I hope we get to talk.

2. why do they things look the way they look: whose hands build them?

  • National Geographic maps: they look as if they were made by hand, and they are.
  • The DesignersRepublic: their stuff looks like it was made by computers, but isn't
  • Google Maps: looks as if it were done by a machine, but it isn’t.
  • Apple Maps: looks as if it were done by a machine, and was!
  • Watecolor Maps: looks as if it were done by a person, but isn’t

So my question for this one is: if our most salient work is made by hand with robots, what else is like that? What else will be?

3. what magic - literal magic - happens when you leave the cameras on?

In 2008 google maps revealed that all the cows face north. this had never been known before! It was because google left the cameras on and made them all available.

http:/ does this with the night sky: leaves the lens on, discovers planets. My question here is: what else gets captured when the camera gets left on? what else can we learn?

4. delight & utility: gardens, farms, beer

Beer comes before agriculture. Gardens too. There are too many generational steps involved between grasses in their natural form and wheat worth harvesting for agriculture to be the thing people were shooting for when they domesticated plants. Drugs and beer and pretty flowers, on the other hand, can be made from a single generation of garden from wildflowers.

We talk all the time about data visualizations and maps that are useful. We don't talk at all about data visualizations and maps that delight you and make you laugh. We should

For this one, I don't have a question so much as I want to say this in public: delight precedes utility. Cool is necessary before useful comes along.

And so

I know it's raw, but people asked. If you're in a talking mood, you can find me on twitter and people are tagging their responses with #webstock. OK!

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

Jan 16, 2013

It's Nice That

Nice indeed for our watercolor maps to be included in the It's Nice That 2012 Annual. It's even nicer to receive a hard copy of the beautiful Annual in all its glory, and to see our work nestled amongst gorgeous, creative, dynamic work from around the world.

It's Nice That 2012 Annual It's Nice That 2012 Annual

There's always a lot of discussion about the future of our cities and this year was no exception with various fads hailed at one time or another as "The Future." But San Francisco studio Stamen have pretty much nailed how best to bring us closer to our urban environments - show us them in watercolours. Their city-tracking mapping project saw them render various cities in this eye-poppingly gorgeous watercolour tile, an undertaking of huge skill and patience but more worthwhile when you get the chance to look around your own transformed street. Technically masterful and aesthetically stunning - that's a combination we've got a lot of time for.

A couple of my personal favourites from the rest of the Annual include Lauren Marsolier's lovely constructed, fictional places and the "The Show That..." series including works by Jeremy Deller and Katharina Gross.

It's Nice That 2012 Annual It's Nice That 2012 Annual

Jan 14, 2013

Hi 2013

All right! It's 2013 & I have all kinds of new business to report.

Back in 2002, when I was first getting serious about Stamen, I got my first real gig: my friend Dane Howard (formerly of Quokka Sports) connected me with some friends of his at DesignworksUSA, who were looking for a way to visually describe the process by which design decisions got made at BMW, and build a system to manage how they communicated this to the board. I flew down to Thousand Oaks and somehow managed to convince DesignWorks that I was their huckleberry. Having some Flash experience, but also having no idea how to actually build the server side of such a thing, I turned to another friend, Darren David, for help. He recommended another friend and colleague, Mike Migurski, as the backend coder for the project. He started coming by my studio after his day job was done, and after a pretty short while we were off to the races, working on projects over the years from admin interfaces for BMW to early mappings of Flickr imagery to Google News visualizations to maps of crime in the Bay Area. Today we're making public that he's moving on from Stamen, on the very best of terms.

Would you hire this guy? I would (photo from 2003).

I learned some valuable lessons from the experience. The first was: get the job first, and figure the rest out later. If you think too hard, it'll pass you by. The most important thing—the most important thing—is to have the paid work that will keep things moving. If you don't have that, it's all about talking and worrying and managing unknown risks; it's vital for skin to be in the game. The second was: trust your first instinct, go for it, and don't worry too much. After a month or of working together in a heady cocktail of cigarette smoke and techno music, I gave Mike a desk and a key to my studio well before we'd sorted out any of the details of how we'd work together, because I knew he was good people and we'd figure it out as we went. Eventually he came on as a collaborator and a partner, and the rest is history.

Mike has since emerged as a vibrant and talented spokesman for our community (I encourage you to keep up with what he does next at; I certainly will), one of the foremost practitioners of open source tools in the service of making data more public that you'll find anywhere. It's been an incredible nine years of intense collaborative partnership—the most important of my professional life, and one I feel privileged to have been a part of. We've had quite a run, and all of this is very bittersweet: I wish him the best, I know he'll continue to do great things post-Stamen, I'll miss him, and that's the truth, Jack.

Stamen Design

Mike and I at the Digg V3 launch party in 2006.

2012 - this is why we could never agree on Stamen schwag

Welcome, new friends:

I also have some new Stamens to introduce to you, as part of the forwardsy-rolling epic adventure, Stamen and otherwise, that 2013 is already shaping up to be. It's new days around here, and I'm super excited to be able to tell you that Seth Fitzsimmons has come on as our new Director of Technology. A devotee of the Church of Allspaw (it's weird, considering how often I've heard that term, that there's so little on Google about it), he brings a focus on instrumentation and transparency to backend systems that I think is genuinely going to transform the kind of work that Stamen does from this point forward. We worked closely with him on a project for Oprah Winfrey last year and I'm really looking forward to the results of this new phase in our collaboration.

In another—is it OK to call this a coup?Mike Tahani has joined us as a hybrid designer/technologist of the type that we seem to specialize in attracting to our practice. Stamen alum Sha Hwang first called Mike to my attention last year with his work on - it was pretty obvious to me on first viewing (his cabspotting riff are wierd and beautiful) that this was someone I wanted to keep close so I could learn from what he was up to. We've had a great couple of months working on different projects, and I'm glad he's decided to come on board for reals.

We've also decided to take the plunge into some new territory for Stamen, one I've been interested in for some time now: Beth Schechter has agreed to come on to run Client Relations for the studio. As we've grown and the space of opportunity has expanded for us, I've increasingly found myself in a position where responding to new potential clients, and managing relationships with current clients, is harder to get to than I'd like. It's the lifeblood of what we do, and it needs someone to pay attention to it full time. Mike Montiero of Mule Design (who I asked for help with this—he knows his stuff) recommended we bring in someone to lovingly tend to this part of our business, and so: entre Beth Schechter, whose credentials include working the always-excellent Burning Man project, mapping work with Food Are Here, and managing projects for Stamen friend Zachary Coffin.

Ok, let's go!

Dec 20, 2012

Surging Seas is an Atlantic Favorite Map Of The Year

by Mike

Today, The Atlantic Cities published their favorite maps of the year, and our work with Climate Central on Surging Seas tops the list: “the most frightening, important maps of the year come from Climate Central's Surging Seas project, which offers an interactive map of all coastal areas of the Lower 48. In the discussion of potential sea level rise, these maps are the most alarming images out there.” The Atlantic has covered this project before.

While we could not have predicted the impact of Hurricane Sandy in October, our work with Ben Strauss and Remik Ziemlinski at Climate Central opened our eyes to the emerging behaviors of the world’s oceans on a warming planet and the risk to low-lying areas like New Jersey and New York. The ocean does not merely rise, it surges and bulges due to weather, seafloor topography and tidal forces. “The surface of the ocean bulges outward and inward mimicking the topography of the ocean floor. The bumps, too small to be seen, can be measured by a radar altimeter aboard a satellite.”

One way we communicated this impact was to refocus the map on the land that’s going to be underwater, and try to make it clear that this is the land that we're going to lose. We wanted to make it responsive and reactive, so we developed a map tiling method based on image sprites, a technique currently making its way from game development to web design.

Each 256 pixel map tile on the site is a tiny map sandwich, a stack of background and foreground images that combine public domain aerial photography from the US Government NAIP program and a custom rendering of data from OpenStreetMap. Using data calculated by Climate Central, we create a background “high tide” image that focuses attention on low-lying areas, and cover that with an image that’s ten tiles in one, an animated film strip of sea level rise from zero on up.

The resulting interactive map lets you quickly investigate the effects of different levels of water rise, something we might have described as “playful” during the development process, but merely terrifying and accurate now. The comparison of Red Hook and Gowanus in Brooklyn above shows one of New York’s hardest-hit neighborhoods.

Dec 3, 2012

Google: #freeandopen

Friends of the internet!

In a few days the International Telecommunication Union, a UN body made up of governments around the world, will be meeting in Qatar to re-negotiate International Telecommunications Regulations. These meetings will be held in private and behind closed doors, which many feel runs counter to the open nature of the internet. In response to this, Google is asking people to add their voice in favor of a free and open internet. Those voices are being displayed, in as close to real time as we can manage, on an interactive map of the world, designed and built by Enso, Blue State Digital, and us!

Adding your voice is pretty straightforward: the map will ask you where you are, and if it can find your location, it'll drop a circle for you right there. I'm in Lynchburg VA today, so I've added my voice from here:

Once you've added your voice, you can share it—on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest (which it looks like lots of people already are doing):

The map has also been localized into 23(!) languages, reflecting the world-wide nature of the campaign. So it looks right in Korean, when and where it needs to:

When I sat down to write this the count was 1,230,766; as I look at it now the count has reached up to 1,305,467 and shows no sign of slowing down, so: thanks Google (it's nice to be linked to from the front page of, and: hooray internet!

Add Your Voice

Nov 9, 2012

Natural Earth v.2.0.0 is live

By Nathaniel, cross posted from

I am proud to announce the immediate availability of Natural Earth 2.0.0!

The 2.0.0 release focuses on 7 major areas and is available to download today à la carte at NaturalEarthData.

ZIP combo downloads of all vectors: SHP (279 mb) or SQLite (222 mb) or QuickStart kit for ArcMap and QGIS (165 mb).

  1. Economic geography: adds global roads, railroads, ports, airports, and time zones to show how people are interconnected and goods route (read Richard Florida on airports, full legal document about time zones and international date line shifts, and background on the E-Road network).
  2. Remastered geometries: fixes topological errors at 1:10 to 1:1,000 scales in the basic coastline, ocean, land, admin-0, and admin-1 related themes for files in the the 1:10m scaleset. By removing self-intersections, sliver polygons, and adjusting offset polygons, Natural Earth imports into more GIS software (like PostGIS) and will be easier to maintain. The coastline is adjusted to better conform to ~1:3,000,000 satellite imagery. Because of all these changes, some raster themes are also updated. Land, ocean, and minor islands all build topologically by scripting ingredients, as do the admin-0 and admin-1 cultural themes.
  3. Introduce Gray Earth rasters. Worldwide terrain depicted monochromatically in shades of gray. It combines shaded relief and regionally adjusted hypsography that emphasizes both high mountains and the micro terrain found in lowlands. View new raster »
  4. New file name and field name schemas. Full adoption of ne_10m_theme_name.shp file names with `ne_` prefix to allow better import into GeoDB and PostGIS storage, lowercase field (column) names instead of MiXeD and UPPER cased names, and use of consistent `name` field (versus name1).
  5. Address user submitted bug reports, ~25 since the 1.4 release, and earlier.
  6. Moved to Github for the backend versioned file management and coordination. Includes scripts to package updates and auto-create derived themes. View Natural Earth Vector on Github »
  7. Adopt semantic versioning. Know, by theme, the level of effort needed to update your maps when Natural Earth data updates are released. Read more about Natural Earth versioning »

Other notable changes:

All themes now include README and VERSION files. The admin-0 attributes have more veracity and now includes nested disputed areas (was a sidecar). Adds continent, region, subregion codes. Adds versions of country and admin-1 without boundary lakes. All places and parts of places have population and GDP estimates. The populated places pop_max and pop_min attributes are now fully built out for all records (pop max is for the metropolitan area, pop_min is for the incorporated city of the same name). populated places now include rank_max and rank_min for simple town size grading. All instances of name1 have been changed to name, name to name, name2 to name_alt. Vertexes were added to many themes to allow them to project into conics smoothly (they’re back!). All field (column) names are now generally in the order of: scalerank, featurecla, name, name_alt, natscale, labelrank, *.


Many thanks to the individuals who contributed over the last year of development: Tom, Nathaniel, Alex Tait, Hans van der Maarel, Scott Zillmer, Mike Migurski, Daniel Huffman, Xan Gregg, Peter Bispham, Drew Noakes, Miguel Angel Vilela, Matthew Toro, Kevin Pickell, Shawn Allen, Robert Coup, Iain, Leo, and more! Thanks also to Stamen thru the Knight Foundation Citytracking grant for sponsoring a portion of this work including remastering geometries for better PostGIS import, the move to Github, and adopting semantic versioning.


Over 225 files have been updated in Natural Earth 2.0.0. Abbreviated listing below. Full changelog is available on Github »
  • UPDATED: NE_ADMIN_0 - Updated for South Sudan, map colors (now with 7, 8, 9 and 13 options), population figures, removed () from notes, and more. note: diffs between sov, adm0, map units, map subunits, and new breakaways are all calculated on the a3 codes now, no longer mix of names and a3 codes. Added and split note_adm0 and note_brk to note which countries are parts of which sovereignties and who’s breaking away or disputing. One spurious “county” feature code fixed to “country” (finland). Added labelrank on all. Added new mapcolors (7, 8, 9 and old 13). Includes new detail on Caribbean Netherlands map unit. Adds more detail to Bhutan disputed areas. Now includes continent codes, and future region code placeholder columns. Added name_len to know when to abbreviate labels. Added label ranks.
  • UPDATED: NE_10M_ADMIN_0_BOUNDARY_LINES_LAND - Minor updates to alignment of boundary lines (and topology fixes), additional coding to allow official US gov’t view of same. better disputed coding, including Kosovo. Densified vertex along lines to allow smooth projection into conics. Moved Omani exclave Madha to correct location. Adds left and right labels and codes. Fixes: N96NSYPAPV, ZQNTN5VGDD, Z8ZYYUQZVS.
  • UPDATED: NE_50M_ADMIN_1_STATES_PROVINCES_SHP – Added some new ISO coding, other minor changes. Fixes topology errors. Adds admin-1 for brazil and australia. Uses same coding as 10m files. Derived from new scale rank version.
  • **NEW**: NE_10M_ADMIN_0_ANTARCTICA_CLAIMS – Although countries have paused their claims to the southernmost continent, they haven’t suspended them. Thanks, Hans!
  • **NEW**: NE_10M_ADMIN_0_ANTARCTICA_CLAIM_LIMIT_LINES – Although countries have paused their claims to the southernmost continent, they haven’t suspended them. Thanks, Hans!
  • UPDATED: NE_10M_POPULATED_PLACES – A couple name corrections (Morelia, Mexico spelling fixed. Mazatlan, Mexico spelling fixed. Clarified confusion around Tabatinga / Leticia on the Colombian / Brazilian border. On the Brazil / Bolivia border, clarified Brasileia / Cobija. Fixed spelling of Shuozhou, China), many population max values, mostly in China, India, rift valley (Africa), Nigeria, and other countries in east Asia, but some elsewhere. Made sure cities in Switzerland are coded admin-0 of CH and China are CN. Moved Amundsen Base to 176° so it’s in the -12 timezone. Also moved Peter I Island. Vatican City is also moved to be contained by it’s admin-0 polygon. Same for San Marino. Added a poprank column with 0 to 14 numerical classes. Deleted spurious Extra Eureka town in Canada near Greenland. Delete duplicate town Urengoy in RUS, rename the real one Novy Urengoy. Fixes: 4SUAZ7BB49, D459XT1Z6Y.
  • UPDATED: NE_10M_COASTLINE – Better matches modern satellite imagery to zoom 8-ish. The earlier coastline could have been several kilometers off (like in Gibraltar). Several large new islands added. Includes densified vertex along lines to allow smooth projection into conics.
  • UPDATED: NE_10M_RIVERS_LAKE_CENTERLINES – See changelog for ne_10m_rivers_lake_centerlines_scale_ranks for details.
  • UPDATED: NE_10M_RIVERS_LAKE_CENTERLINES_SCALE_RANKS – Updated river names, few new rivers, splits. added river connector in Sweden between lake near Stockholm and Baltic Sea. Fixes in France and Netherlands. Fixes Mackenzie river at it’s confluence with Dawson river in Australia. Names the Mahakam in Borneo (Rivernum 544). Changes scalerank on Nelson river in Canada. Fixes: SHAWNZQJ3B, 5J47B13PJ7, W9X539LBUT, 35YLBL2W9Z.
  • UPDATED: NE_10M_RIVERS_LAKE_CENTERLINES_NORTH_AMERICA_SUPPLEMENT – Updated river names, few new rivers, splits. Fixes: SHAWNZQJ3B, 5J47B13PJ7.
  • UPDATED: NE_10M_RIVERS_LAKE_CENTERLINES_EUROPE_SUPPLEMENT – Updated river names, few new rivers, splits. fixed topology errors. Fixes: SHAWNZQJ3B.
  • UPDATED: NE_10M_LAKES – Removed major lake groupings (Great Lakes, Finger Lakes, etc) to geography label areas instead. Title cased the feature class values. Added Swedish lake near Stockholm (had been extension of Baltic Sea in ocean theme). Fixed topology errors. Fixed a few reservoir and salt lake codes (thanks Craig!).
  • UPDATED: NE_10M_LAKES_NORTH_AMERICA_SUPPLEMENT – Name1 have been changed to name, name to name, name2 to name_alt. Fixes 4VA9P9UGQE.
  • UPDATED: NE_10M_GEOGRAPHIC_LINES – New int’l date line, thanks Alex! Also densified linework for smoother projection into conics.
  • UPDATED: NE_10M_LAND – A dissolved version of the original 1.x file, now renamed “ne_10m_land_scale_rank”, see that changelog for full details. Fixes XAWXTN54GT.
  • **NEW**: NE_10M_LAND_SCALE_RANKS – Renamed our original land file to this. Incorporates new coastline. Includes densified vertex along lines to allow smooth projection into conics. Fixes XAWXTN54GT.
  • UPDATED: NE_10M_OCEAN – A dissolved version of the original 1.x file, now renamed “ne_10m_ocean_scale_rank”, see that changelog for full details. Fixes XAWXTN54GT.
  • **NEW**: NE_10M_OCEAN_SCALE_RANKS – Renamed our original ocean file to this. Incorporates new coastline. Removed Swedish lake near Stockholm (had been extension of Baltic Sea in ocean theme) to lakes layer. Incorporates new coastline. Includes densified vertex along lines to allow smooth projection into conics. Fixes XAWXTN54GT.