Polymaps: Hello World, Working Code and Gotchas

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Aaron Straup Cope (Stamen Design)

prettymaps is an experimental map by Stamen Design, released in August 2010. It is an interactive map composed of multiple freely available, community-generated data sources: Flickr shapefiles, Natural Earth urban areas and OpenStreetMap road data.

Built using TileStache and Polymaps (open-source tools developed by Stamen for generating map tiles and creating interactive “slippy-maps”) it was possible to design, control and iterate through complex interactions involving not only large numbers of conventional raster-based image tiles but also pure data-based tiles, rendered dynamically in the browser. This talk will discuss the technical challenges and final implementation of the project with a strong focus on future possibilities and directions for mapping on the web.

prettymaps was coded-named “Isola” after the Finnish textile designer Maija Isola. At a time when the tools for making custom maps and bespoke cartographies are becoming easier and more accessible it is nice to look back at her work and imagine the maps she might have made if she were alive today. To consider geographies outside of the traditional grid of latitudes and longitudes—only just glimpsed at in a project like prettymaps.

Aaron Straup Cope

Stamen Design

Aaron Straup Cope is Canadian by birth, American by descent, North American by experience et MontrĂ©alais au fond. Aaron spent five years as a senior engineer at Flickr, focusing on all things mobile, geo and “machine tag” related, before leaving to join Stamen Design in 2009. Once upon a time, he was still a painter. Aaron does not normally speak in the third person.

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