Like any desirable urban market, real estate prices in San Francisco will make your head spin. So perhaps it’s only appropriate that when a designer at Stamen set out to create an interactive visualization of his city’s real estate prices, he used a color palette that only Jerry Garcia could love.
Stamen’s goofy “Cheerio Maps” uses data from Zip Realty to plot San Francisco properties by price, size, and age. The visualization might look neat and tidy at first, but zoom in a few clicks and it quickly lets its hair down.
Much like the Grateful Dead’s music, Cheerio Maps’ hippy-dippy first impression belies the intelligent structure beneath. According to Stamen, the “arbitrary” colors make it easier to distinguish between properties of similar (but not identical) value, so you can assess whole neighborhoods at a glance: “All of the bluish dots in the image below are about the same price as one another, and the same goes for the pink ones. The fact that they’re all mostly the same size means that this is a fairly homogeneously priced part of the Bay.”
Furthermore, the size of the dots (which also denote property prices) remain fixed, regardless of zoom level. While that can make the map look rather riotous, it also puts the city’s market as a whole into stark context. “At a local level, there’s some variance,” Stamen’s site says, “until we zoom out, where the Green Giant overwhelms the scene (and speaks to the incredible variance in house prices in that city).”
Which brings us to Cheerio Maps’ goofiest, best feature: “Sharkify”, which lets you vent whatever nasty emotions these real estate realities have dredged up by… well, by stamping giant clip-art sharks all over a city no doubt full of razor-toothed brokers and landlords.