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Dec 16, 2014

Get a drink of open data with MapIsArt

Just in time for your holiday gift buying rush, we're announcing today a new partnership with MapIsArt. They're a new company formed to take advantage of the increased availability and accuracy of OpenStreetMap data by offering custom map products based on our watercolor maps. We're starting off with a couple different custom products: canvas, table lamps, marble clocks, serving trays, and (drum roll please) table coasters, and there's more to come as things develop. But in the meantime, show your love for Stamen & OSM by heading over to MapIsArt for custom map goodies!

Dec 1, 2014

Introducing Positron & Dark Matter: New Basemap Styles for CartoDB

By Beth & Seth

Ready to make lovely maps using open source data on an open source platform? Two new basemap styles – Positron and Dark Matter – are available from mapping platform CartoDB, waiting for you to make your own beautiful visualizations.

CartoDB already has a suite of styles to choose from, but some of the ones using OpenStreetMap data were only available at limited zoom levels. With our new styles, visualization possibilities await at all zooms, creating an opportunity for depth beyond what’s been possible before now.

Throughout both maps we’ve made clear labeling for cities, parks, water bodies, and administrative boundaries. We’ve also worked out the relationships between line thickness and outlines for roads, railroads, rivers, and lakes across all zoom levels. Relative brightness of various features have been tweaked to create an appropriate hierarchy of importance at all zoom levels.

And finally, we’ve given some extra special love to the CartoDB offices in Madrid and Brooklyn, and the Stamen office in San Francisco (only visible when you zoom all the way in).

It’s been great working with CartoDB to make it easier for everyone to make data visualizations. Now we’re excited to see what you make with what we made together.

Want to use these basemaps with Leaflet.js? Here's how:

var layer = L.tileLayer('http://{s}{z}/{x}/{y}.png',{
  attribution: '© OpenStreetMap contributors, © CartoDB'

var map ='map', {
    scrollWheelZoom: false,
    center: [40.7127837, -74.0059413],
    zoom: 6


Let your data story sing!

Nov 20, 2014

Healthcare Variation: Location, Location, Location

This week, the California Healthcare Foundation (CHCF), a longtime Stamen client, released a completely redesigned and updated version of All Over the Map, a tool to help policymakers, health professionals, and concerned citizens discover variations in the prevalence of elective procedures across California.

Why does such variation matter? Well, it turns out geography matters when it comes to whether or not a person gets a knee replacement or has a baby through induced labor. And location matters even when the data experts working with CHCF corrected for other factors, like age, race, socioeconomic status, and so on.

Using this map, one can discover that, if you’re a pregnant woman in Gardenia, you are six times more likely to have an electively induced birth as if you lived in Napa.

That’s a big difference!

All Over the Map 2014 is the third version of this interface we’ve designed and built for CHCF, going back to 2011. The key change this year was, well, change. With two data periods available for many procedures, we had the opportunity to highlight not just outliers in one time period, but also how much certain areas have changed over time.

For example, though Clearlake residents had the state’s highest rate of coronary angiography from 2005 to 2008, that rate dropped by 47% in 2009-12.

Working closely with CHCF, we were able to create an interface that combines bold colors and simple bar charts with careful and refined interactions and subtle color gradations to bring beauty and subtlety to highly technical data. Color schemes and legends highlight outliers in the data, while thoroughly storing variables in the URL means that all states of the map are easily shareable.

How does your home region fare on the map? Find out!

Nov 19, 2014

A Blueprint for Global Water Security: Visualizing Urban Watersheds for The Nature Conservancy

by Beth and Dan

Few things are more vital to a city than safe, accessible fresh water. More than 20% of the world’s population lives in areas where access to clean, fresh water is challenging. It’s obvious: Healthy cities need reliable clean water to thrive.

But how do we achieve that critical goal of safe, secure water supplies for hundreds of cities all over the world?

The Nature Conservancy, working with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the International Water Association, has the answer: Conservation strategies could benefit more than 700 million people in the world’s 100 largest cities—one out of 10 people on the planet.

A rich, new dataset created by Nature Conservancy scientists – and visualized by us – illustrates this opportunity, for more than 500 cities worldwide. In many cases, solutions are very manageable, making cities’ water systems safer and more secure while also benefitting wildlife and ecosystems. The dataset breaks down the water data metrics by quality:

..and by quantity:

It also covers the nature-based solutions cities could use to make their water systems safer and more secure, including best practices for agriculture, riparian restoration, forest protection, reforestation, and forest fuel reduction. These actions help to conserve water while benefitting wildlife and ecosystems in the process.

TNC brings incredible depth of knowledge to the work, and asked Stamen to help find a way to make their data approachable, engaging and navigable for city managers, mayors, water managers, and residents in cities around the world. The data itself covers 25 different variables for 535 cities, and those cities contain 1,840 “diversions” — watersheds, desalination plants, groundwater withdrawal points — and each of those has nine or 10 data points. If you’re following along at home, that’s 13,375 city data points and 18,000 watershed data points. It’s a lot for experts to manage, not to mention civilians!

The goal, of course, wasn’t to drown people in all that data, but rather to reveal the most interesting and relevant information at the right time. The team at the Nature Conservancy selected 25 cities to highlight with narratives and images that highlight the story they wanted to tell — that conservation works for people and nature — and our map and page designs showcase that message.

Once you find yourself on a city page, in Jakarta, for example, you can take in the whole sweep of that city’s water situation with a few simple charts and color-coded ratings. At a glance, you see that much of Jakarta’s water comes from afar, and that its overall water supply is very stressed.

You might also easily see how neighboring cities – like Oakland and San Francisco, sometimes have very different water supplies and, consequenly, water challenges. In particular, San Francisco’s water quantity is stressed while Oakland’s is not.

In the end, protecting an upstream watershed from deforestation can improve water quality as much or more than installing an expensive treatment plant. This has significant impact on the bottom line, and New York City’s story is a perfect illustration. In the 90’s the city was tasked to meet state and federal regulations to comply with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. One option on the table was to create a water treatment plan to the tune of $8-10 billion, not including annual operating and maintenance costs. The option they went with instead was protecting the city’s forested watershed, which cost $1.5 billion and has yielded some of the best drinking water in the world.

San Diego's approach is a different one: paying farmers to implement conservation measures so the water they save can then be used in the city.

All in all, TNC estimates that the water utilities surveyed could save nearly a billion dollars a year by investing in watershed conservation. For more on the economic impact of water conservation, download the full report at the bottom of the opening page.

This map is the culmination of years of work by TNC scientists. We are honored and delighted to have been able to work with them to represent their important work in a clear and accurate way. The Urban Water Blueprint is also designed to explore and share, so that people around the world can understand and talk about the water challenges faced by their cities. Most importantly, like TNC, we hope to see city leaders take action to protect water for people and nature.

Less doom and gloom, fewer dollars spent! There’s no reason not to conserve.

Get the Urban Water Blueprint for your city.

Nov 13, 2014

The Urbanist: Urban Cartography at SPUR

It's no secret that the field of cartography has been going through some pretty serious change lately, and that a lot of this change is happening because of work being done here in the Bay Area. San Francisco-based nonprofit think tank SPUR has been tracking developments in the field and doing a lot to get the word out: their current Urban Cartography exhibit is in the pages of Dwell, San Francisco Magazine, and Curbed. We received our copies of the magazine that accompanies the exhibit today. It's great to see the iconic work that Eric Fischer does alongside our own City from the Valley map, Andreas' summer fellowship, and Alan's OpenStreetMap work.

The exhibit is up through February 2015, so there's plenty of time to pay it a visit.

Nov 7, 2014

Notes from 2. Istanbul Tasarim Bienali – Istanbul's Second Design Biennial

by Beth

Greetings from Berlin. Earlier this week I was in Turkey, where I'd spent the last week coordinating the install of our curation, Mapmaker Manifesto.

The second Istanbul Design Biennial opened to the public on November 1. Produced by iKSV, one of Istanbul's, if not Turkey's, largest arts foundations, the event worked with over 50 artists, designers and artist/designers who each produced a manifesto under the timely theme of The Future is Not What it Used to Be.

The room for our curation within a curation in is a funny, narrow one, with paneling up to my ribcage topped by nearly 17'x12' of white wall on either side. The other two walls are home to a large window overlooking an abandoned building on one side and the entry way (with another window looking into the room) on the other.

The room has received an overwhelmingly positive response from curators, mapmakers, designers and artists who have visited it (as well as a mention in Design Boom, featuring The Refugee Project by Ekene Ijeoma and Hyperact.) I had multiple people tell me that it was their favorite room in the entire exhibition, even though the installation was not complete for opening weekend. The manifesto itself was not installed until Sunday evening, and the website (which is the guide to the room) is being added this week.

Designing inherently comes with a healthy dose of perfectionism, of course the incompletion caused me anxiety and stress. But then I remembered that manifestos (and exhibitions, for that matter) are idealistic in nature and messy in practice. The Mapmaker Manifesto is no exception. The manifesto calls for maps of all kinds as a kind of data collection process, to see if there is any universality that reveals itself through multiple representations of You Are Here. Data will save the world, right? If we can just see the things that are wrong, then we'll fix them, of course. We'll make a future together, if we can just agree on what the map says.

Of course, we know this isn't true. As Becky Cooper points out in Mapping Manhattan (which was included in the exhibition) maps are by no means objective, and in fact the contrary is true. Not only are maps subjective, they can sometimes be downright wrong. The false location of the Greek School (the Biennial site) in Google Maps reminded many of us foreigners of this fact. Joseph Dana from Monocle took out the pen and paper to route the actual location of another site for one of his colleagues, warning her against using the tool.

We call out the subjectivity of maps in our curation, which is, in and of itself, a very subjective map of maps. I had the great pleasure of speaking about this during a Designers in Dialogue session with Helen Maria Nugent, moderated by SAIC student and curatorial assistant Denise Bennett. Helen’s project maps the look of love using eye tracking technology, and then manifests them as objects made with the materials of anniversaries, such as paper and silver. Denise paired us together so that we could talk about the expansiveness of mapmaking and types of maps.

The biennial itself had countless maps hidden inside of it. I did my best to hunt for them all. Here is one about the 6th extinction, by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg:

And another one from Repair Society:

And another one from Occupy Gezi Architecture:

While I was busy talking about maps and tending to the still-in-construction room, Becky Cooper was on a mission throughout Istanbul. As part of the Mapmaker Manifesto, Becky walked the city with a translator, and documenter, and a whole lot of maps for her Mapping Istanbul project. This project, along with our online curation, will be happening throughout the Biennial, and perhaps beyond it. During her walks, she spoke with over 100 people, and even helped a blind man to map his memories as she described them to her. The hope is to collect enough of these maps and stories to make another book.

One of the most exciting diversions was seeing the map collection of iKSV’s editorial manager, Kerim Bayer. Over the past 7 years, he has been collecting maps, most of them from 1850–1950. During a break, we rode his motorcycle up to the top of one of Istanbul’s many hills to his office, where he has nearly 1000 maps! Here is a small sampling:

Kerim is an aspiring mapmaker himself. In speaking with him, it seems there are very few mapmakers in Istanbul (or at least few that he knows). He also pointed out that the OpenStreetMap data in the area is sparse, making it hard to work with. My hope is to keep in touch with him, and perhaps there is an opportunity for a Maptime in Istanbul, with enough people. Design is beginning to take off in Istanbul, and perhaps a community of map designers and data visualizers will come with that shift.

Things change all the time, of course, but there was an overwhelming sense among many of the artists and designers present that we are at an apex of sorts. Istanbul itself exists in a brackish water between old and new. Perhaps this has always been the case in a city that spans two continents, has had multiple names, and carries with it the weight of thousands of years of history. Taking over an old Greek school with futurist design ideas seemed in and of itself fitting for this year’s Biennial. The future-facing works within the exhibition created a brackish water of its own between art and design, modernism and postmodernism, science fiction and science fact. It can be quite overwhelming.

Our little room of maps captures this feeling, and like everything else in the exhibition, will before we know it be gone. The documentation, including the maps themselves, will be all that remain.


Visit the Mapmaker Manifesto site and see more photos on Flickr

Oct 3, 2014

Maps -> Istanbul: Announcing Maps and Mappers for the Mapmaker Manifesto Curation

by Beth

This year, the Istanbul Design Biennial has chosen the theme The Future is Not What it Used To Be. When they opened the call for participation back in January, they asked for manifestos of any form – words, videos, artworks, anything that spoke to this theme. So the Mapmaker Manifesto was born. This manifesto demands that we look at the data around us in an honest and critical way. With this information, we may choose a direction towards our future and find a healthy, sustainable way to get there.

It all starts with determining a collective you are here – but what is that? Is it cohesive? Disjointed? Funny? Sad? The works we have selected, put together, begin to paint a picture of the very tip of this iceberg. The content ranges from meditative walks to informal bus systems, with media from paper and paint to vectors and video. It's messy. It's overwhelming. And it's absolutely beautiful.

Without further ado, Stamen is pleased to announce the artists and works we’ve selected for the Mapmaker Manifesto curation.

Aaron Reiss // New York’s Shadow Transportation System
Alan McConchie // OpenStreetMap: Every Line Ever
Becky Cooper // Mapping Manhattan & Mapping Istanbul
Benedikt Groß &  Bertrand Clerc // Metrography
Bert Spaan // All 9,866,539 buildings in the Netherlands
Casey Cripe // San Francisco v.1.3
Ekene Ijeoma & Hyperakt // The Refugee Project
Jake Richardson // myPDX
Jay White // Vancouver
Joseph Lee & Benedikt Groß // The Big Atlas of LA Pools
Julia Griehl, Patrick Stotz & Achim Tack // The Limited Accessibility of Public Transport
Lize Mogel, Alexis Bhagat, Natasha Jen // Sharjah CityMap
Martin Pulicar // The (In)Visible Night Sky
Natalie Jeremijenko // Phenology Clock
Ross Kelly // Quasi Political Map
Sarah Williams and Wenfei Xu of the Civic Data Design Lab at MIT // Digital Matatus
Sarah Nordean // Walking Loops
Wendy Brawer & Isabelle Duvivier of Green Map System // Green Maps from Around the World

Once we’re done with all of the details necessary to put together the physical space full of the works above, we’ll be working on a digital space as well. Look for more information about this online portion of the curation, coming soon!

In the meantime, many thanks to these artists for working quickly within a very short turnaround. We are delighted to work with all of you and look forward to showing your maps in Istanbul from Nov. 1 – Dec. 14. Many thanks also to all the artists and designers who sent in their maps. It has been a joy to go through all of them, and a challenge to choose the above list.

Onwards to Istanbul!

Learn more about the 2014 Istanbul Design Biennial!

Image credits, from left to right: Alan McConchie & OpenStreetMap contributors, Aaron Reiss, Natalie Jeremijenko, Sarah Nordean (photo: Minttumaari Mäntynen), Jay White, Benedikt Groß & Bertrand Clerc, Ekene Ijeoma & Hyperakt

Sep 9, 2014

Silent Springs, Specifically: Visualizing North American Bird Flight Range Shifts for the Audubon Society

by Alan and Beth

Climate change, though we know it's there, is a hard thing to see: it's slow, it's invisible, and if you don't know what you're looking for, then you might not even miss it once its gone.

Birds, however, are often hard to miss: they can be loud, bright, beautiful, strange. It turns out that by watching where their flight ranges are shifting now, we can get some idea about where they are going, which points to some likely patterns of climate change and how it will affect an ecosystem in the not-so-distant future.

This is precisely the kind of data that the Audubon Society has been collecting extensively about North American bird flight range changes, and in this project we have helped them to visualize it. Working with data from “the broadest and most detailed study of its kind,” the visualizations we’ve made together, with a lovely site designed by our friends at Mule, collectively comprise “the closest thing we have to a field guide to the future of North American birds.”

Hundreds of thousands of observations (drawn from the long-running citizen science projects the North American Breeding Bird Survey and the Christmas Bird Count) combined with sophisticated climate modeling create these predictions of where certain birds will be, when. Suddenly we have a clearer idea of where each specific bird will go, not just that they will all travel north. [Waves hands to indicate broad area of northernness.]

The dataset for all 314 birds contained both summer and winter range predictions. Our main challenge was to make this data engaging for the public. For us, this meant making the visualizations easy to understand, as well as easy to share.

Realizing that individual animations would make it easiest to see the change, we decided to make a GIF for each bird.

Not quite like that. Rather, for each year in our dataset – 2000, 2020, 2050, and 2080 – we created a shifting cloud of movement showing the probability of where the birds’ range is now and where it's likely headed in the future. Yellow represents summer, blue winter, and green is a combination of both seasons. The yellow and blue outlines mark the 2000 summer and winter ranges to make it easy to see how things change over time.

We’ve been enjoying the wispy, smoky detail that comes through on the much as anyone can enjoy maps about such massive and potentially disastrous changes for so many animals. Just look at the beautiful detail in the Rocky Mountains in the maps for the Northern Shoveler or the Ruffed Grouse!

To create these maps, we wrote a script against Tilemill, one of our favorite cartographic styling tools. In the end, we rendered more than 1200 maps (four years of data for each of the 300+ birds).

In addition to the maps, we made two Venn diagrams for each bird as well. These overlapping circles show both the area of the potential 2080 range, but also how much the current range overlaps with the future range. That's crucial. Some birds (like the Hooded Oriole) might have big increases in theoretical range, but if there's no overlap, we can't be sure whether the bird can take advantage of that new range.

In some cases there is a lot of overlap, like with the Mallard:

And in some cases very little or none, as with Allen’s hummingbird:

…and the Cerulean Warbler:

…and Baird's Sparrow:

And so many more.

As sobering as this work has been to create, we thoroughly enjoyed working with both Mule and Audubon to create it.

To learn more and take action, visit Find your favorite map and share it with your friends! Or better yet, go outside and find a bird that you might not see again in the next 20-80 years.

A tech detail of the project is coming soon!

View the project live.

Sep 3, 2014

Announcing a new Stamen partner


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.

About Stamen
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

Aug 29, 2014

Mapmaker Manifesto: two weeks left to submit maps for the Istanbul Design Biennial!

We are curating maps for an installation we call the Mapmaker Manifesto, to be displayed at the 2014 Istanbul Design Biennial this November and December!

Because of the short timeline, we've set a hard deadline of September 15, 2014 to receive submissions.

For more information, check out the official Call for Maps here: Send your submissions to manifesto [at] stamen [dot] com.

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