London 2012 Olympics Map Points to the Future of Cartography



One challenge faced by any city ramping up its local services in advance of hosting the Olympics: You can’t put any old company’s logo out there for the world to see unless they’ve inked a hefty sponsorship deal and/or been named as an official contractor. That means even the lettering on the side of the construction vehicles building your new stadium will get painted out in press photos. Online, where almost everything is branded, from YouTube to Flickr, this gets tricky, especially when it comes to mapping–yep, you guessed it–no using Google Maps. So LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) tapped SF-based collective Stamen Design to build a custom map for the London 2012 website, a beautiful and radical departure from off-the-shelf mapping programs that makes full use of that pupil-rattling logo.


Poke around a bit on the map and you’ll start to notice the
impressive navigational capabilities that have you zipping into central London in no time. But the challenge here was to integrate geo-coded images, videos, stories and blog posts. As you zoom in, flags sprout up, signifying color-coded locations (news=blue, blogs=purple), and a cool multi-color design on the flags that register as, say, news/blogs.


Tabbed bubbles pop open when you click the flags to get even more information, and link to the articles and slideshows elsewhere on the site.



Another cool detail: If you find yourself near the under-construction Olympic Stadium, you’ll be greeted with scenes from the multiple webcams installed around the site. Most notable is the map’s ability to filter its content by date range along the bottom, allowing you to slide the timeline open to see a few months or several years of activity, updating in real time. And of course, lots of the colors, angular, fragmented
details and animations within the map borrow from that despicable logo.

Stamen is becoming famous for its custom cartography projects, so keep tabs on their Web site if you want to see what they release next. For a sample of Stamen’s recent work in the states, check out this hurricane tracker map they created with MSNBC, and Oakland Crimespotting, which harnesses crime data for the city of Oakland and churns it into an easy-to-read, and quite beautiful map.

About the author

Alissa is a design writer for publications like Fast Company, GOOD and Dwell who can most often be found in Los Angeles. She likes to walk, ride the bus, and eat gelato.