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.
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 google.com), and: hooray internet!
By Nathaniel, cross posted from http://kelsocartography.com/
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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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 »
- 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).
- Address user submitted bug reports, ~25 since the 1.4 release, and earlier.
- 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 »
- 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.
I went to my first Open Street Map conference recently—State of the Map US, in Portland. Stamen was one of the conference sponsors, along with MapBox, and ESRI and TeleNav, among others, and it's great to see and be part of the different industries come together to support this effort. I went with Mike and Nathaniel, who are more directly involved with this community than I get to be, and those guys also stuck around in Portland for North American Cartographic Information Society annual meeting the following week.
Open Street Map is getting super interesting, with more and more companies and people signing on to use and contribute to the service. Carl Franzen wrote a three-piece article on the conference, starting with"The New Cartographers: OpenStreetMap’s World Takeover," and it was great for me to see the different forces at work in the OSM community up close and personal:
"Nevermind Apple’s maps misfire, the free, volunteer-made OpenStreetMap, may end up reigning supreme anyway, as companies increasingly choose it for map data over Google. But as the project grows, it’s becoming harder and harder for its members to agree on what direction to go in next.
OpenStreetMap, a free crowdsourced online world map started eight years ago, has seen its ranks swell to over 800,000 volunteer mapmakers around the world — 300,000 in the last year alone — rapidly becoming the go-to source of map data for successful tech brands including Apple, Foursquare and Wikipedia, as well as for government agencies like the National Parks Service, all of whom are wary of Google’s decision to begin charging for heavy use of its Maps API starting in January 2012.
But as the project grows and matures, it’s facing a whole new set of challenges, the biggest of which is the question of whether or not to commercialize and move away from its open source roots.
The tensions facing the community were on full display at OpenStreetMap’s annual “State of the Map USA” conference in Portland, Oregon from October 13 through 14, a frenzied, jam-packed series of over 50 presentations and countless other informal talks between avid geographers and programmers who sprawled over a few generally overcrowded rooms at the Oregon Convention Center, fueled by coffee (beer at night) and their boundless enthusiasm for using and improving the vast and increasingly vital public map."
It's a robust (and growing) community, as you can see here (in more ways than one - look closely and you'll see my son on my lap among the babies in attendance):
Photo by Justin Miller on Flickr
Nikki was a hit too with her watercolor stockings and blankets (coming soon!) based on Open Street Map data and meshu necklaces. A big year for custom objects based on open data!
Photo by Justin Miller on Flickr
Mike and Nathaniel took the stage to demonstrate some forthcoming client work we're doing, extending the currently US-only terrain maps from maps.stamen.com to cover the whole world:
And Nathaniel took some time to do a Hangout with James Fee, talking about the San Francisco Giants (w00t!), Stamen, Natural Earth, SOTMUS and NACIS.
This is a follow-up post about the piece we launched last week on Facebook Stories called "Data Visualization: Photo-Sharing Explosions." The project took us a little over 2 weeks from start to finish, and we wanted to show you a bit about how we got to the final piece.
The Facebook team asked us to visualize the remarkable volume and virality of sharing of some popular images, with hundreds of thousands of shares happening over just a few days. Since so many people are involved, we came up with the idea of representing people as particles in a big system. After recent R&D, we realized pretty quickly that WebGL would be a great fit for showing this volume of activity.
Sketch, Scribble, Select
When we are handed a new dataset to work with, it's imperative to begin sketching with it as soon as possible. Drawing pictures with the data can tell you all sorts of things, like the overall shape of the dataset, where there might be gaps or anomalies, and pointers towards which axes you might begin hanging things from to illustrate one element or another.
Here are a couple of screenshots and a video of Zach's first WebGL sketches of sharing activity for a single test image:
Even at this early stage, the "user as particle" concept felt right and continued to weave into most of our sketches after that. As we would discover, one of the challenges we faced was giving each person/particle a starting position that was meaningful in some way, not just everything emanating from the middle out. The data laid out a basic idea of generations of sharing through a social chain too, which we could exploit for better positioning.
Data Shape & Movement
Rachel came at the data from another angle, graphing all the shares on a variety of axes, to get a feel for its grain and distribution. Here you can see a graph that maps each time we see a new person sharing along the x axis (time), and shares originating from that person dropping down along the vertical axis. Lots of drops means lots of resharing.
Now that we had more of a feel for the overal sharing trajectory, we started working on motion, movement and feel. Rachel's first motion sketch was super exciting, and left us all giggling and gasping around her monitor. Look at what happens a few moments in:
I also really liked the "relief" of the shape left behind once the animation had run through and faded out. We ended up carrying this idea through to the final piece, where once the animation had played through, you're left with a snapshot that encapsulates all the activity you've just watched.
Getting It All Out There
The particles' movement was more or less random at this stage, so we set to work on hunting for variables we could use to inform the movement in the piece, perhaps to control velocity or direction of the particles. We had some basic anonymized demographic data like facebook age and friend count at our fingertips, which Shawn set about brute-forcing into a bunch of scatterplots in all combinations, so we could look for bumps or bunches or gaps.
Laying things out like this lets you examine the texture in the data, and perhaps even have a "what the heck is that?" moment. Even though there were a couple of data hillocks here and there, we didn't find any ZOMG bright spots for this single test image's data. What we were able to do, though, was to cut away a bunch of demographics that weren't at all interesting and highlight those we thought might be, like Facebook age (age of the account), and user age (as specified by the user), friend count and share count.
In the meantime, Facebook has settled on mapping the activity around 3 images shared by George Takei
. He's incredibly popular and prolific on Facebook, with a ton of friends, and loads of content. While the 3 images themselves are, shall we say, possibly not going to end up in a museum, they are amazingly viral, with up to 900,000 shares or so for "Famous Failures
." We took the demographic data for the 3 selected images and ran it through Shawn's scatterplot tool. Incidentally, we'd also refined the fields that we thought were interesting to plot like this, cutting out the combinations that seemed like noise.
You can see from the animation that each of the images had mostly similar patterns in these scatterplots, even with the differences in the number of shares per image. What we did notice was that the age of the sharers was slightly different amongst the 3 final images we'd chosen, so we explored a direction using age as a positioning device. You can see that come to light in the visualizations below, where we spawned branches based on the sharer's age (young on the left, old on the right), instead of from the center (or a node in a sharing branch) as before. We also introduced 2 colors into the mix, one for each gender in the dataset.
This same idea is rearranged slightly into a waterfall-y layout, where you can start to see the generations of sharing come to light as well, as we begin to look into color variations over time. The longer the sharing generation, the closer to white:
Particle Movement, Curves, Speed
Now that we had the basic idea in place, it was time to start refining the movement of the piece. Here is a series of riffs:
Particles on tiny curls:
Straight lines, and making the particles larger over time:
Curves on the paths:
And this crazy thing:
Here's an experiment with curving lines, redder tones, and eventually cyclical paths:
The voluminous mass:
This last sketch was getting very close. Close enough that we chose that model to refine, in terms of particle motion, and finally color.
The "Arabesque" looked lovely, but had lost the feel of the branching in each generation:
With more emphasis on branching and fewer inward-turning lines:
So we folded those all together into what was very close to the final "flower":
It's not often that the Stamen design department swoops in at the end to "tart something up," but in this case, it worked just fine. Our magical color wizard, Geraldine, then worked within Zach's code to find the right color combinations for each piece. We wanted lighter backgrounds to try to emphasize the depth of each flower, and had our two gender colors to assign, each reaching towards white as the generation aged. It's definitely more efficient when you reach a certain point in development to make tweaks directly in code, as opposed to working in Photoshop...
And, whoosh! Just like that, we were right at the finish line. The motion was looking great, and we were all still very excited with ooohs and aaahs as we played each iteration. Zach and I sat together to gently tweak the final motion, adjusting things like particle size over time, and the amount of curl on each generation until we were happy with it.
So there you go.
And, here's the Facebook Stories page where you can browse each of the final pieces!
If you're interested to read more Stamen process blog posts, try the Esquire Where The Maps Come From post, or our various Watercolor map expositions. You can also browse other videos on the Stamen Vimeo page.
Following up on last month's map of the world's friendships on Facebook, we've released another visualization of relationships across social networks today. Called "Photo-sharing Explosions," these visualizations look at the different ways that photos shared on George Takei's Facebook page go viral once he's posted them.
Each visualization is made up of a series of branches, starting from George. As each branch grows, re-shares split off onto their own arcs. Sometimes, these re-shares spawn a new generation of re-shares, and sometimes they explode in short-lived bursts of activity. The two different colors show gender, and each successive generation becomes lighter as time goes by. And the curves are just for snazz.
The visualizations are live at facebookstories.com.
A lot of what we do at Stamen is inventing things that haven't been done before; pushing the technical envelope on something like scary cartography, or inventing new techniques to animate the effects of climate change due to global warming. It's fun, and it's definitely a big part of what keeps my creative juices flowing: Hey, look at that shiny new thing! Are they really paying us to do this? Awesome! But it can also be stressful, particularly when you're planning your time and running the day-to-day operations of a studio, because fundamentally: if it's new, it's hard to figure out how long it's going to take. We have various mechanisms for accounting for this (including taking a loss on a project because we just can't help ourselves), but every once in a good while while we get lucky enough to take a second pass at something that smart people have laid a foundation for. This kind of work comes with its own satisfactions: polishing something to a high sheen, making it great instead of just good, really taking the time to pay attention to every detail and make sure that it comes out just right.
We're proud to announce today, along with our friends at Yandex, a redesign of the online maps for Russia's most popular search engine.
We have done the important stage of the project. We talked to designers, engineers and other smart guys during all time of the project. We achieved a lot of experience of mapping design.
For example, at the the begining of the project we collaborated with Stamen. These cool guys helped us pick main issue definitions, refine ideas, get important recommendations what to improve. We implemented it into final design.
What follows are some before and after comparisons of the various design changes we recommended to Yandex.
Many maps account for many different kinds of roads: freeways, business routes, on ramps, off ramps, service roads, residential streets - and show those roads as different kinds of strips on the map. We reduced the number of roads to three, greatly simplifying the display:
District names are always tricky to label; you've got to decide how take into account things like major railway stations, and how they'e going to interact with one another. These choices have been improved:
Zooming in a bit, we brought down the emphasis on the subway labels themselves, and made sure to label them for easy legibility:
Zooming in further, we paid attention to the routes that the subway lines take under Moscow. Not having been there before, we needed to rely on our friends at Yandex for confirmation as to whether this looked right given insider knowledge of Moscow, but it turned out nicely:
One more zoom level in and there's enough detail for the subway icons to be colored according to which line they're on:
We did recommend a few new features, in this case one-way arrows indicating the directions that cars are allowed to travel in on different streets:
And finally we improved the rendering of freeway interchanges, which if you've ever tried it yourself, is no joke:
You can see the results for yourself at http://maps.yandex.ru/. And it's generally a good sign when your client, in town from Russia, comes to visit. Thanks Andrey, Alexander, Julia and team Yandex!
The Map to Image bit of maps.stamen.com has seen steady use since we launched it in September: close to six thousand images made, about half of those watercolor, a third toner, about one every ten minutes. We've made some adjustments and improvements to it that should make it even easier to use, and easier to see what other people have made.
For starters, the results page has been reworked so it's a bit more navigable: where there used to be one long infinitely scrolling page with all the maps on it, each day now gets it's own page that fills up over a 24 hour period, so if you made an image on September 18, you're covered. There's also a graph at the top so you can see usage over time.
Each generated image also gets its own page now, and we've included Pinterest buttons so the images are easier to share.
We've launched a new project for PMC, a consulting firm that advises municipalities on things like transit policy and energy use. Energy Efficiency in San Gabriel Valley looks at a variety of cities in southern California and reports how much electricity and natural gas people used, how far they drove, how much waste they generated, and other metrics. We compare each city to the others in the Valley, to LA and SoCal as a whole when we can, and plot these metrics on an interactive map and series of charts below. It works best in Google Chrome, as PMC's initial use for the project is a conference on energy efficiency and climate change, held last week in Monrovia.
We're using terrain background tiles, with terrain-lines overlaid), for the base maps. The outlines are loosely based on the municipality boundaries, and fill up and empty out based on whatever metric's being compared. La Cañada, Flintridge and Irwindale have the highest Vehicle Miles Traveled counts, and we think this is because they're furthest away from the center of the Valley:
Measuring like this shows outliers pretty clearly. "Rock quarries dominate the small community of Irwindale, but the city is planning to attract more diverse land uses as some of the mines begin to close," and you can see this reflected in the Waste per Job statistics for that city. It also has many more jobs than it does residents, by about 13 to 1.
Further down on the page, the whole site is clickable, sortable, and otherwise interactive. Selecting a stat down below pivots all the rest of the data, so every location becomes a potential jumping off point for more comparisons.
Compare the more industrial cities to largely residential ones, and the wealthier cities start to emerge, like Bradbury. With the smallest population, but highest residential electricity use, larger homes are implied.
Or, you can infer that La Puente is fairly "self-reliant", and people tend to stay nearby, since they travel the least:
The editorial is pretty terrific as well: who knew that Baldwin Park is the home of the first Drive-In restaurant in California (In-N-Out), and the best performing city in the Residential Gas category?
Stamen alum Sha Hwang and I shared a stage last night at Arkitektura's Design Assembly in their lovely Soma showroom. Besides the obvious awesomeness of sharing a stage with Sha (whose work at Trulia is up there with the best), it's always fun to talk to an audience of designers; their focus on how things look and the kinds of questions they ask bring a certain kind of energy. I also feel like I can let my hair down a bit (what's left of it), talk about the cultural aspects of what the studio does and explore some new, not-entirely-fleshed out ideas.
One of the ways I've been tricking myself into thinking new thoughts is to look at writings about other forms of expression and substitute the medium that's being discussed—painting, photography, architecture etc.—and replacing that with "data visualization." So if you take a look at what Group f/64 (Ansel Adams' cohort) said about photography:
"The members of Group f/64 believe that photography, as an art form, must develop along lines defined by the actualities and limitations of the photographic medium, and must always remain independent of ideological conventions of art and aesthetics that are reminiscent of a period and culture antedating the growth of the medium itself."
and drop "data visualization" in there:
"The members of Stamen believe that data visualization, as medium, must develop along lines defined by the actualities and limitations of the data visualization medium, and must always remain independent of ideological conventions of art and aesthetics that are reminiscent of a period and culture antedating the growth of the medium itself."
you wind up with some things to consider that we can toss into the mix of data visualization manifestos and what all this work is "for." Who would take seriously a manifesto about what photography if "for" that was this restrictive now? It's a way to jump the conversation into a more interesting place and start to anticipate a world where these kinds of visualizations are as common as photographs are now; maybe more so.
Another fun one is "fashion." I've been talking about with Ben Cerveny and others for a while now about the idea that Stamen's approach to mapping and data visualization is more like that of a fashion house than like a graphic design studio or a web development shop. Fashion, far from being superficial fluff on top of real culture, in this view is is highly technical (the Gaultier show at the de Young convinced me of this), an endeavor where innovation and new material is key, and is deeply embedded in and often leading aspects of culture.
And then Paola Antonelli asked, on Twitter, where a phrase in the talk came from:
@enjalot @stamen: uh? intriguing statement! pls explain?... "Data visualization will be ephemeral, dangerous and unfair"— Paola Antonelli (@curiousoctopus) September 27, 2012
So here are the slides:
Looks like I'm going to need some more rings, and maybe some better shades...but I haven't seen Lagerfeld with a better cummerbund.