STAMEN DESIGN MAPS OUT EXPANSION FOR LEADERSHIP IN THE FIELD OF DATA VISUALIZATION:NAMES JON CHRISTENSEN AS PARTNER & OPENS NEW OFFICE IN LOS ANGELES;ANNOUNCES GROUNDBREAKING SOCIAL SENSE-MAKING, ENVIRONMENTAL & MASS MEDIA PROJECTS
SAN FRANCISCO, CA, September 3, 2014 — Stamen Design, known for award-winning design in the field of data visualization and its beautiful and technologically sophisticated mapping projects—laid out its plan today to service the expanding frontier of communications for big data. The San Francisco-based firm announced Jon Christensen as a partner and strategic adviser. Christensen, a veteran journalist (New York Times, High Country News, LA Observed), editor (Boom: A Journal of California), and academic (Stanford, UCLA) is opening a Los Angeles office for Stamen. He will provide an infusion of capital for the company to invest in product development as well as strategic guidance and relationships for expanding business in a range of areas where his own career has developed, including environmental, scientific, journalism, mass media, cultural, museum, library, and educational markets.
The announcement is the latest step in a series of collaborations between Stamen Design and Christensen. As a result of the new partnership, the fortified Stamen has released and is currently developing several new public data visualization projects, including charting the impact of sea level rise on communities nationwide with Climate Central, exploring water quality and quantity risks along with opportunities for conservation in cities worldwide with The Nature Conservancy, helping San Francisco Bay Area museums publicly share data about their collections, and creating new open data and open mapping tools for the Knight Foundation’s Knight News Challenge. Additionally, Stamen will use new capital to develop spin-off products and services that flow naturally out of these client projects and can be used by multiple customers to meet their mapping and data visualization needs in commercial, nonprofit, and academic markets.
Eric Rodenbeck, Founder, CEO & Creative Director of Stamen, stated: “With open data, Stamen found an opportunity to connect its experimental and commercial projects to become a leading brand in this field. With Jon’s help, Stamen is poised to substantially expand its reach in commercial, nonprofit, and educational markets. Together, our data visualization tools will drive news, create dialogues, provide key intelligence, influence decisions, and identify potential solutions for the challenges facing our most important natural and cultural resources. We announce Jon’s partnership, our new Los Angeles office, and our future work together with great enthusiasm, having found in him the partner who can extend our reach while confirming and enhancing all of Stamen’s existing strengths.”
“I am thrilled to be joining Stamen Design as a partner and am tremendously excited to head the company’s Los Angeles office,” Christensen said. “I’ve followed Stamen’s work closely over the years as a researcher, historian, journalist, educator, and curator of public projects. Data visualization, digital mapping, and interactive storytelling are becoming increasingly important in these areas. Stamen is the place you go when you’re ready to get serious about communicating with your data, and I’m excited to see our clients come to us with questions about the use of visualization across the spectrum from history to science, finance to logistics. It’s great to be at the forward edge of discovering what’s possible with mapping and data, and I’m looking forward to helping Stamen continue to thrive there.”
About Jon Christensen
Jon Christensen has been an environmental journalist and science writer for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Nature, the San Francisco Chronicle, High Country News, and many other newspapers, magazines, journals, and radio and television shows. He is the editor of Boom: A Journal of California, a quarterly magazine published by the University of California Press that brings scholars, researchers, writers, artists, policymakers, and the public into common conversations about California in the world; and a regular columnist at LA Observed. He is an adjunct assistant professor, journalist-in-residence, and senior fellow in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, the Department of History, the Center for Digital Humanities, and cityLAB at the University of California, Los Angeles. Prior to UCLA, Jon served as executive director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West, an interdisciplinary center for research, teaching, new media, and journalism at Stanford University. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford in 2002-2003 and serves as a trustee on the board of the California Historical Society.
Since 2001, Stamen Design has led the field of interactive mapping and data visualization. The studio builds beautiful, technically sophisticated projects for a diverse set of clients. Stamen combines strong creative strategy, design, engineering and software development. The studio complements the expertise of its clients through collaborations that bring to life a wide range of compelling interactive mapping and data visualization projects. Stamen’s interests, process and disciplines apply across a wide swath of industries and project types. The work ranges from elegant and utilitarian maps to entertaining data visualizations for MTV and artistic and evocative works in MOMA. Stamen designs with real data, not ideas of what data could or should be. The studio designs and builds dozens of custom projects a year, many of them pushing the boundaries of creativity and technology. Stamen also participates in many of the communities that develop and support open data and open source software. This keeps the studio’s design and technical capabilities broad and deep, and helps provide the best sustainable solutions for clients.
Stamen South, open for business:
Official press release on Marketwired
Two weeks ago, we were horrified to learn that our friend and Stamen alum Zach Watson was fighting for his life after having been the victim of a car crash that injured six people in the Tenderloin. He's been in critical condition since then.
I'm so very sorry to have to tell you that Zach passed away this afternoon. The doctors determined a few days ago that his coma would be permanent, and he was taken off of life support at 3:14pm.
It's appropriate that he would leave us then, right at the number pi. I personally knew the side of him that was deeply involved with math, having worked with him on so many wonderful projects while he was at Stamen. I had second hand knowledge of the other side of him, the part that was perhaps even more deeply involved with food, and dancing, and embracing life. He was a smart interesting curious man, quick to laughter and very much on his own path. The work he did with me and Stamen is some of the work that I'm proudest of in my life. I was thrilled for him when he decided to continue his career after Stamen at the Exploratorium, and I'm sorry not to have seen more of the work he did there. Today the world lost a great artist and thinker and bon vivant.
He was 29 years old. I miss him dearly.
Sail on, Dr. Watson. We love you.
Climate change is one of those things that can be so invisible, and in some cases so subtle, that it can be hard to conceptualize. Over the years, our work with Climate Central has sought to make one symptom of this looming problem – sea level rise – much easier to see. The maps we've made together reveal what's lost as water makes its way upon our shores, rather than the mass of land that's left behind. Our most recent work with them, in partnership with New America Media, shows us very clearly what we'd lose in California: the homes of hundreds of thousands of people.
90,000 of those people live in San Mateo County alone, 50,000 of whom are ethnic and racial minorities. Climate Central estimates the cost of this damage to be in the realm of $22 billion. Cities all along California's coast will face similar losses.
This version of the map, released today, lets us see a very poignant and personal part of the story, one more specific and far more real than a population density map could reveal. Inspiration for this method came by way of the by the Cooper Center's Racial Dot Map.
It's not just the numbers that are blowing our minds. It's the difference that we're seeing in each city and state, each of which has different a different datasets, and different levees for that matter.
We can see in Hayward that a large Black and Asian population will be affected:
Here are some specific numbers:
And here is the overall social vulnerability for the area:
Long Beach tells a different story:
Here's a closer view.
Reports and maps for coastal California cities can be found on Climate Central's website, as well as sea level rise visualization and analysis for coastal continental US.
It's all becoming ever more real. And now we can see it coming as we never could before.
In late February 2014 MtGox, one of the oldest Bitcoin exchanges, filed for bankruptcy protection. On March 9th a group posted a leak of MtGox data, which included the trading history of users from April 2011 to November 2013. We've been collaborating with Kai Chang & Mary Becica on some visualizations of this data; they're live as of today at http://bitcoin.stamen.com/.
These graphs explore the trade behaviors of the 500 highest volume MtGox users from the leaked data set. These are the Bitcoin barons, wealthy speculators, dueling algorithms, greater fools, and many more who took bitcoin to the moon.
Barons are characterized by their early start in the market followed by big sells at higher prices. Initial trades with many sells suggest the user mined bitcoin before entering the Gox market.
Automated traders can build up a large volume by making thousands of small trades. Vertical stripes of sells across a wide price range may also indicate algorithmic activity.
Glitch in the System
User 15 purchases large volumes of bitcoin at seemingly random prices. Why do so many traders sell at low prices to User 15? Why does User 15 buy at astronomically high prices? Are these faulty trades or an algorithm gone mad?
The mark of the Greater Fool is a lonely green patch where the price is highest. Some of these may be investment groups encouraged by the Bitcoin Senate Hearings in November.
For more visuals (we've mapped the top 500), please see http://bitcoin.stamen.com/. You can take a look at some previous visualizations of markets Stamen has done here and here.
By Eric and Beth, cross posted from Markets for Good
This post is a check on both our ambitions and our processes. The uses of data visualization are different according to whether the goal is to communicate a specific thought for a single moment, e.g. as a poster, or the goal is to provide a durable tool for social change. It should be mighty safe to say that we want the latter, i.e. to take full advantage of the ability to create dynamic, interactive, real-time stories that make data plain and useful. Eric Rodenbeck, CEO & Creative Director, and Beth Schechter, Education and Outreach, Stamen Design offer a fundamental insight to inform data strategy: think about the future – how you will maintain your visualization outputs and capabilities (both human and technical) on a shifting landscape.
The data visualization community is a large, diverse, and growing one. As different as we all are, there is a vein that runs through all of us: earnest pursuit of the truth, love of information, and desire to share it in a beautiful, clear, understandable way. It is from this desire that the data visualizers produce some of their most impactful work, like Periscopic’s U.S. Gun Deaths in 2013, or Hyperakt and Ekene Ijeoma collaboration The Refugee Project. For us, one of these works is Crimespotting.
Crimespotting began as an independent guerrilla project, organizationally attached only to Stamen. We realized that it was important for residents of Oakland – a Bay Area city with a crime-addled history – to have more information about the crime in their neighborhood than just seeing police cars whiz by, sirens ablaze. Former Stamen partner Mike Migurski started scraping the Oakland Police Department’s API and sorting police reports by time, block, and report type. After Chauncey Bailey, a prominent local journalist, was assassinated in broad daylight in downtown Oakland, we decided to make this data public on an interactive map.
Not long after launch, two things happened. First, the City of Oakland turned off our access to their servers, which effectively shut down the project until we were able to connect with the city’s crime data department, who eventually turned into one of the project’s biggest supporters.
Second, the City of San Francisco asked us to create an officially sanctioned version of the project for San Francisco, which we did do. The San Francisco instance was launched in 2009, with Mayor Gavin Newsom at our side.
All of this happened over half a decade ago. In the years that followed, the project apexed with tremendous impact and support – including coverage in the New York Times and this video with Hans Rosling. But over the years, the project started wavering. Oakland’s API has sputtered to the point of being nonfunctional, rendering Oakland Crimespotting totally spotless. (see below) Although the San Francisco version has fared slightly better thanks to Stamen partner Shawn Allen and Jeff Johnson at the SF Department of Technology, it’s also broken several times. Only in the past couple of weeks have Shawn and Jeff found time to work on fixing it amid a medical leave. If not for these volunteered efforts, the San Francisco version would be as comatose as Oakland’s.
Watching the static nature of this project play out is painful, as is answering countless emails asking about why they are broken and when they will be fixed. We want to say that it will happen soon, but we know that reality dictates otherwise. We also know that it’s no longer acceptable to tell the public, “Sorry, it’s just that the code is creaky and the database is full.” We’ve come a long way since 2007, and the public expects better. They expect it to just work, and rightfully so.
I tell you this story because at this point it’s as archetypical as [a damsel in distress]. Too often we build works like these, only to see them falter and fail as browsers upgrade and technology evolves.
If you build a bookshelf, you take the time to design it once, to build it once, to finish and install it once. Dynamic data visualizations and other Web-based works are not quite the same. They’re more like plants, sprouted from the seed of an idea. Data visualization in particular also has a beautiful blossoming to it, one that happens naturally in response to the data, illustrated as pixels and color.
If you plant a flower in a garden and then never give it water or light, it will in fact die. Unless, of course, it happens to placed in just the perfect spot, in which case it will need to be pruned. Either way, some kind of tending is always required.
We don’t always think of digital works in the same way, perhaps because their metaphor of creation more closely resembles that of a built object, like a bookcase or building. But even buildings need maintenance, and after so many years, the shelves on the bookcase may falter and need new ones. We need to be more conscious about this aspect of dynamic data visualization, at the outset.
I urge of all our clients, in particular those who are making works for the public (which is most of them), to consider plans for maintenance. Luckily a lot has changed since 2007, and now more of our clients have some kind of web or technology team to take this work on. It’s part of their operating strategy. Clients in the nonprofit and municipal centers typically do not have those kinds of resources, and if they do, they are usually limited. What’s troubling is that these are the clients typically commissioning some of the most socially relevant work, yet their funding models typically only call for the build, and nothing beyond that. Nonprofits have the advantage of being able to fundraise (which is a TON of work), whereas governmental departments must rely on strict, slow process and very limited budgets.
If you are one of these bodies and you want to make socially relevant work, then we urge you too to think about how these works will live beyond the build and to come up with a plan (or at least funding model) for how it can be maintained. If not, all that work and money and time is going into something which is sadly, inevitably doomed. It’s not enough to visualize data, or to make it public: as data visualization moves from a flashy experimental genre to one that the public relies on, we need to come up with solutions that let them grow and change over time—to take the time to water and prune, just like we do our gardens.
When I first discovered Pinterest about two years ago, my heart exploded and my mind was blown in the best possible way. One simple interface allows me to visually browse all of the beautiful stuff I find on the internet and beyond, and to organize it how I please. It feels friendly & welcoming—a place where I know I’ll find good things to look at and that I carefully put things I want to use later.
So you can probably imagine the heart-explodiness that’s rolling through my corner of the studio this evening, with the release of Place Pins, featuring a beautiful new map designed by none other than us! Place Pins let you map the things you love, near and far, making the pins more actionable and bringing out the explorer in all of us. You can view and create these Pins on your desktop or on mobile, when you’re actually out and about exploring. You can also collaborate with friends and family, using it to plan your next vacation or a tour of your favorite architecture.
Making a map fit for this kind of activity was a fun one. Pinterest loves color and texture and a feeling authenticity, all of which you might find in a paper map. Our house style, to the degree that we have one, tends to veer towards the bright and sparkly, and this design challenge was the perfect opportunity to break from our mold and try something new. Which we did, using rice paper texture, subtle color washes, and a mixture of unicode and hand-drawn fonts. We’ve also added some extra touches, like using OSM ids to introduce just a bit of entropy into the angle of all of the place labels to introduce some variety and get away from the hyper-precise default modern way that these things tend to settle towards. If you look carefully you'll notice that the spacing of the letters on street labels varies a bit from road to road. This is an intentional gesture towards making maps more human. The result is a map that (we hope) has a bit of soul and variety to it, not just another one-off, and is just asking for pins to be put all over it.
I’m also pleased to announce that for the first time we’ve shifted the backend infrastructure burden of one of our projects to that developed by our colleagues at Mapbox (you can read their take on all this here). The whole process of getting this thing online and polished was incredibly smooth and hassle-free, totally different from the wailing & gnashing of teeth that historically has accompanied the release of our worldwide maps. Honor is due to those guys for solving a hard problem and for making it possible for this kind of project to flow smoothly. I’ll follow up in a separate post about some of the finer details we included in the project and some ways that I think things could get even better.
All in all, we’re delighted to have been asked by Pinterest to participate in this project, and we hope the results are to your liking. Let us know what you think, and we hope you’ll share your maps with us and others. And happy Place Pinning!
Here's the city view of Amsterdam. At this particular zoom level, the small details of roads and buildings amplify the textures that are being used for land and water.
The Bay Area. At this zoom level, we start to see the emergence of parks, as well as major roads. These elements, along with the textured waterways, reveal many layers of detail that work together quite beautifully.
The street level view of Boston is shown below. Here we see a nice combination of road labels, buildings, parks and waterways.
At the country level, a large portion of Europe is captured in this image. The forests become visible, giving the landscape another layer of texture.
Karlsruhe, Germany. At this street view, we see several detailed components, such as parks and foot paths, rail lines and building density.
Hong Kong captures one of our main design goals with the Pinterest project. The "hand-crafted" look and feel is quite evident with the contrast of textures, especially where the water meets the land.
Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs. Like the image of Amsterdam, this zoom level captures several detailed elements - roads, highways, waterways, buildings and parks.
"In September 2013, students in Webutuck High School art classes participated in a mapping workshop where they made maps of their lives--things they did, things they liked, things they didn't like, and things they'd like to see. They drew the maps on Field Papers, which were scanned, edited, and turned into geotiffs and markers. This is what they look like all together."
"Thanks to The Wassaic Project, Mr. Fitz at Webutuck High School, and Stamen for making Field Papers, seriously.
Maps and kids drawings FTW!
The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) has been doing incredible work in coordinating the mapping the parts of the Philippines affected by Typhoon Haiyan / Yolanda. I encourage you donate to support their important work here. Our Field Papers project is seeing active use in this effort, with 256 atlases made in the Philippines as of this writing. You can contribute to the project starting here.
Most maps of sea level rise are underwhelming, visually. By focusing on the land that's shrinking as sea levels change, they give the impression that there's lots of land left over, even after the oceans change the shape of the coastline.
Climate Central's new Surging Seas project (available in New York and New Jersey to start) turns this issue around by placing the visual emphasis not on the land that's left over, but on the land that's lost as the ocean rises. Ten feet sounded like an unrealistically high number when we started the project, but Sandy's storm surge of 13 feet changed our minds pretty quickly.
New in this version is the introduction of two new datatypes, also emphasized according to the level of sea rise: population density and social vulnerability. So in this view of Manhattan and eastern New Jersey, you can see that the Lower East Side, as well as Jersey City, both have a high number of people who'll be affected by the change:
In sharp contrast to one another, though, the Lower East Side contains a high number of socially vulnerable people, whereas in Jersey City people are generally less unprotected (the yellow bits near the harbor):
Here's what the Rockaways look like as sea level rises in high- and low-population densities near the beach:
Big data is a big deal, for sure, but small data can be beautiful too. A work of art, even! We’ve been exploring these themes with Wong Doody Crandall Wiener in a new data viz piece in the lobby of Cedars Sinai Medical Center West Hollywood.
To house their most state-of-the-art research and outpatient care, Cedars Sinai built a new Advanced Health Care Science Pavilion. They envisioned an art piece that could speak to cutting-edge technology and, at the same time, be soothing for visitors and the people who work there. It needed to be both intriguing for the doctors and nurses who’d pass it every day, and accessible for the patients seeing it for the first time.
We loved the idea of using their data sets to depart from by-the-numbers visualization to create a work of data art. The video above gives you an idea of what you experience drifting over six large monitors across from a bank of ground-floor elevators.
The data set Cedars gave us tracked around 140 monthly metrics from different departments. Geraldine and Zach took that data and assigned each metric a line, with denser lines representing higher numbers. The circles and wave-like motion are designed to project a sense of calm without being too "institutional."
Based on feedback from Cedars Sinai, for the final piece it was narrowed down to just 12 data points per year, including: number of babies born, volunteer hours and pints of blood donated. Now we had a much smaller data set and these higher-concept numbers would be easier to digest while you're waiting to be whisked up to, say, the Heart Institute or headed to the cafe.
Then it came time to bring it into the real world, which is kind of new territory for us, since most of our work (when it's not turned into a tablecloth or napkins) lives on the Internet.
Zach spent a few days on-site ensuring that the final result would sing. First he had to get it to work, finding himself on that awkward battleground where the design studio Mac world confronts a real-world PC environment. There were a few skirmishes over HDMI cables and countless diplomatic missions to a nearby Apple store, but he found common ground and made it work. (OpenGL also helped.) He also did a bunch of walk-bys of the six monitors at different times of day leading to a few tweaks in speed and color to improve the overall flow.
"When I started the installation, people passing by would see me draped in cables and ask if I was making the world's biggest Xbox or something. Then when it was done, they would stop and say 'Dude, that's awesome!' You don't get that visceral reaction to online work so much—at least, not so you can hear it in person."
We put together some experimental visualizations earlier this year for quantified self device hot shots Jawbone, showing the behavior of several hundred TED attendees during this year's conference in Monterey. We worked with their data team to gather up the activity that each of the devices send back to the service, and after carefully combing through to make sure that we respected people's privacy, combined them into a single visualization that updated throughout the conference and represented the collective behavior of this self-selecting cohort.
One thing you can immediately pick out is that there are patterns in the behavior of people as they filter in and out of sessions; similar to the way traffic snarls move backwards along a freeway, but in reverse. People trickle in to the starts of talks over about a ten minute period, and you can see that quite clearly, and then stand up en masse as the talk ends and they filter out into the halls.
As usual, we started from the data instead of comps, and very quickly hit on the idea of a ring of people's days, organized by when they wake up. Red is awake, blue is asleep, and each ring is a day. The closer to the center you are, the earlier you wake up:
Looking at the edge of waking makes it clear that for lots of people, the passage from sleep to waking is far from linear—this is why lots of these lines turn from red to blue, and back again:
We broke the TED audience into a variety of cohorts: light sleepers, heavy walkers, 40+ and so on, and designed an interface to let attendees switch between them to get a better sense of their activity, both individually and collectively.