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Say hello to global Stamen terrain maps

I think I’m goin’ to Katmandu,
That’s really really where I’m going to
Hello, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Venezuela, Columbia & French Guiana! | Left: 2016 | Right 2014

As of today we are live! with a new and improved global version of our terrain map, first launched with the support of the Knight News Challenge, an initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and generously supported by a follow on grant from Knight.

Left: August 2014 | Right July 2016

Web mapping has come a long way since we launched the project, and it’s great (and a little scary) to see that has more than doubled in monthly usage since August 2014, when it was already pretty high.

Now that MapQuest’s closing down free access to it’s service (“modernization,” they call it) it seems like a good time to let people know that there are free, global alternatives out there for map coverage. The project uses streets and roads and places and so on from OSM at high zooms, data from Natural Earth at low zooms, landcover from MODIS and OSM, and Digital Elevation Models from Mapzen.

The other thing to announce is that while the development of the project was graciously funded by Knight, we’ve realized that 4 billion tiles doesn’t just fall off the back of the truck. As of today we’re gratefully accepting donations from those who find the service useful, or those to whom it brings joy. You can sign up for recurring donations as well, and I hope you will. Thanks in advance for your support of this amazing project!

And so: to the maps! The caption to each of these is a link to a live version of the project. I hope you enjoy these and find them useful, and that you’ll consider contributing to the project, if that’s how you roll.

Mount Everest!
Ushuaia, southernmost city in the world
Wellington, New Zealand
San Germano Chisone in Italy

In some places, the data’s still pretty rough. Like Ny-Ålesund, in Norway, home of the world’s northernmost post office. But that’s OK. If I know anything about this landscape it’s that things get better over time.

We’re planning some more blog posts that go into detail about some other aspects of the project, like:

  1. technical & design process of the new build
  2. ways that small companies like Stamen can leverage some new things about how web services are deployed to easily scale these services down during times of low use, not just up during times of spike traffic
  3. how you can roll your own maps
  4. how to contribute to and benefit from the other side of the grant, which is to maintain a complete and easy-to-access collection of free and open source high quality terrain data

But that will come in time.

Go, explore the world!

Published: 07.12.16
Updated: 09.20.22

About Stamen

Stamen is a globally recognized strategic design partner and one of the most established cartography and data visualization studios in the industry. For over two decades, Stamen has been helping industry giants, universities, and civic-minded organizations alike bring their ideas to life through designing and storytelling with data. We specialize in translating raw data into interactive visuals that inform, inspire and incite action. At the heart of this is our commitment to research and ensuring we understand the challenges we face. We embrace ambiguity, we thrive in data, and we exist to build tools that educate and inspire our audiences to act.