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. …

Today (January 22nd) is Treaty Day in the region where I live (the northwest part of Washington State). It marks the day in 1855 when the Point Elliott Treaty was signed between the United States government and the native nations living around the north part of Puget Sound (the central Salish Sea).

I talked a little bit about the importance of understanding and honoring native treaties in a presentation I gave a few months ago at the North American Cartographic Information Society conference in Tacoma, Washington. …


TL;DR: The answer is yes. You don’t have to rank all the candidates, but there’s no reason not to.

The OpenStreetMap Foundation (OSMF) is currently holding an election for four seats on their Board of Directors. This is the governing body for the global OpenStreetMap project, and ideally the Board will represent all the diverse perspectives and communities within the overall OpenStreetMap movement. Thankfully, the OSMF board uses the Single Transferable Vote (STV) method for its elections (also known as multi-winner Ranked Choice Voting), which is perhaps the most robust and flexible form of Proportional Representation, giving the voting public…


[crossposted from mappingmashups.net]

Last month I gave a presentation at the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) conference. NACIS is always one of my favorite conference, and you can now watch videos of most of the presentations on YouTube here.

My talk was about getting Native Reservations to show up on OpenStreetMap. I blogged about this previously: “It’s about time OpenStreetMap showed native lands on the map”. Now you can watch the video of my presentation:

You can also follow along with the slides on SpeakerDeck.

slides on speakerdeck: sta.mn/jzj

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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