A personal history of OpenStreetMap, seen through the eyes of Stamen Design

by Alan McConchie, Eric Rodenbeck, and the Stamen Design team

Recap

In part one of this series, we covered the early years of the friendship between Stamen Design and OpenStreetMap. Like Bert and Ernie, Romy and Michele, or Turner and Hooch, these two friends from different backgrounds soon learned they had a lot in common, and quickly these BFFs became inseparable.

In the previous post, we started from OSM’s creation in 2004, to Stamen’s first maps using OSM in 2009, and building up to a heady pace of non-stop…


Stamen’s project 12 Sunsets: Exploring Ed Ruscha’s Archive, which we built in collaboration with The Getty Museum, is the 2021 Webby Award winner in the category of Architecture, Art & Design!

The Webby Awards have honored the best websites on the internet every year since the inaugural awards in 1996. This year’s awards ceremony was hosted by actor and activist Jameela Jamil. Watch the event online here: watch.webbyawards.com


Stamen’s Watercolor map

Today the Cooper Hewitt (the Smithsonian Design Museum) officially added Stamen’s OpenStreetMap-based Watercolor map to its collection, the first live website to ever become part of the Smithsonian.

Learn more from the Cooper Hewitt press release and the announcement event recorded on YouTube:

We are especially grateful to the hundreds of thousands of volunteer contributors to the OpenStreetMap project who created the data that made this map possible. The Watercolor map is a gift in memory of the late Zach Watson, who was one of the core developers who created the Watercolor map. …


A personal history of OpenStreetMap, seen through the eyes of Stamen Design

by Alan McConchie, Eric Rodenbeck, and the Stamen Design team

Stamen and OpenStreetMap, growing up together on the mean streets of Napoli

Last month, we were interviewed by Steven Feldman for The Geomob Podcast about Stamen’s history using OpenStreetMap (OSM). This stimulating conversation gave us the chance to get a bit nostalgic and think back on this long strange trip we’ve been on with OpenStreetMap. For certain, OSM is the dataset that Stamen has used the most over the years, but OSM is much more than a dataset. OSM is many things, a (mostly) leaderless organization, a community of communities


Recently Eric Rodenbeck and Alan McConchie had a fascinating conversation with Steven Feldman for the Geomob Podcast. Geomob is a great resource for the geospatial community, organizing a series of in-person meetups in Europe (and now hosting virtual presentations which are all recorded online and available on YouTube). In our audio interview with Steven we talked about the past, present, and future of Stamen’s mapping practice and covered lots of behind-the-scenes aspects of our work. Here’s the podcast summary from Geomob:

Fans of clever cartography are in for a treat — this week Steven interviews Eric Rodenbeck and Alan McConchie…


In our last post looking back at the data visualization trends of the coronavirus pandemic, we focused mainly on charts and diagrams, and less on maps and cartography. By and large, the maps of the pandemic were predictable and familiar choropleths and proportional dot maps that did their jobs well and didn’t call attention to themselves. Inevitably, though, there were many examples of misleading maps that failed to follow the cartographic rules, or of maps that were widely misread by the public.

In this post we’ll look at a few of those maps gone wrong, and also look at some…


Just over a year ago, Stamen HQ officially closed its doors and we all started working from home. Being who we are (Stamen is a design studio specializing in data visualization) we did what we always do during dramatic news events: try to understand what’s happening through the language of charts and graphs. Only this time we weren’t alone: everyone in the world was trying to use data to understand a crisis that was in many ways invisible and (for most of us) looming some unknown length of time in the very near future.

The start of the pandemic brought…


[Also posted on Fast Company as “We design maps for a living. Here’s who got the 2020 election right”]

Every election season, maps and charts take center stage on major news outlets and across social media. The public is hungry for numbers and understanding, and data visualizers and cartographers race to produce their best work under tight deadlines, adapting familiar tropes to keep up with unpredictable and fast-moving developments.

As a cartography and data visualization studio (you may know our work from our open source basemaps at maps.stamen.com, or our more recent projects visualizing the possibilities of electrifying America’s households


The Bellingham Police Department sign on May 30 2020. Photo by Lee Che Leong

UPDATE May 31, 2020:

As of the morning of May 31st, the sign is gone. Chief Doll took it down himself.

I personally removed the sign this morning and we will work towards an image that is more inclusive for our Community. We are saddened that the original intent of the image has been co-opted by others to beget a different meaning.

I thank you for your outreach and communication. Dave.

David Doll — Police Chief

Bellingham Police Department

Thank you to everyone who wrote in letters on this topic. And special thanks to Chief Doll for promptly making this…


  1. Today I dropped off my ballot in the Washington State presidential primary. We’re a vote-by-mail state, so hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians have already voted weeks ago. And now that the results are coming in, we see that over a third of the votes went to candidates who have already dropped out. Similarly, on Super Tuesday over a million votes were wasted on “zombie candidates”. Imagine, instead, if we had a system where you could vote your first choice, but then also indicate your second and third choices in case your preferred candidate dropped out before election day. …

Alan McConchie

Lead Cartographer at @stamen / election reformer @FairVoteWA / founder @LocalgroupBham. Maps, networks, visualization, code. 15 min of fame: @pop_vs_soda

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