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Beautiful Maps: New Tiles from Stamen Design

Paul Van Slembrouck

published on March 22, 2012 in Design

If anyone knows cartography, it’s Stamen. The San Francisco-based design studio cranks out a wide variety of beautiful projects, with mapping as a dominant theme. Using the Bay Area as a canvas for experiments in visualizing geographic information, they’ve created apps like Crimespotting, Cabspotting, and National Geographic’s new The World iPad app. They’ve also contributed to tools for other data and design geeks, including the free javascript library Polymaps.

Now, drawing from a decade of working with maps, they’ve created these new tile sets for public use. offers custom map tiles in three different flavors that can be used on top of the OpenStreetMap platform. Each has a unique visual style and can serve different purposes as a result.

Toner is a stark and minimalist black-and-white theme that allows for quick examination of major and minor roads, parks, and bodies of water. The high contrast lends itself well to use in a printed report or poster.

The Terrain theme is a rich representation of topography and foliage across the United States. It features detailed roadways and place labeling, as well as great typesetting with a pleasant, fresh-feeling font.

Finally, a throwback to middle-school art projects, Watercolor is a beautiful, label-free theme with rich texture, a rainbow of colors, and perhaps a bit of innocent inaccuracy due to the occasional bleeding of colors into each other.

Consider mashing up these map tiles with some of your own data to discover what new insights each theme makes visible. They’re available for use under a Creative Commons attribution license.