Watercolor Maptiles

Join Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum for the latest installment in the Behind the Design program series. Curator Andrea Lipps, conservator Jessica Walthew, and Stamen Design’s founder and creative director Eric Rodenbeck will discuss Watercolor Maptiles—a web-based, open-source mapping tool that displays OpenStreetMap’s data with the hand-hewn textures of watercolor paint.

Launched by Stamen Design in 2012, Watercolor Maptiles is part of the design firm’s larger web-based cartographic project to create accessible, open-source tools that present public data in highly visual ways. To explore and use the map, users can zoom in and out, enter a location into the geo search bar, or just scroll around and create images for embedding into their own open-source projects.


Black and white portrait of Andrea LippsAndrea Lipps is Associate Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum where she conceives, develops, and organizes major award-winning exhibitions and books, most recently Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial (2019) and The Senses: Design Beyond Vision (2018). Lipps is an accomplished writer and editor on contemporary design, regularly publishing books, essays, scholarly articles, and more. Additionally, she leads the museum’s efforts to build its nascent Digital Design collection. Andrea’s work has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, Vogue, WWD, Architectural Digest, W, Financial Times, and much more. She is a regular visiting critic, lecturer, and thesis advisor, participates on international design juries, and frequently moderates and speaks at events, symposia, and academic conferences on contemporary design and curatorial practice.

Portrait of Eric RodenbeckEric Rodenbeck is the founder of Stamen Design in San Francisco, which builds beautiful, playful, technically sophisticated mapping and data visualization projects for clients from the Dalai Lama to the World Health Organization to scientists around the world. Uniquely interdisciplinary, Rodenbeck’s work intersects with the world of fine art, has been exhibited worldwide at the Venice Biennale, Victoria and Albert Museum, SFMOMA, Art Institute of Chicago and others, and is in the permanent collections of MoMA and the Smithsonian. Rodenbeck was expelled from the Cooper Union and studied science fiction and the history of technology at the New School for Social Research, both in New York City. Stamen Design is a winner of the National Design Award for Interaction Design.

Portrait of Jessica WalthewJessica Walthew is an objects conservator at Cooper Hewitt, working with both the Product Design & Decorative Arts and Digital Design collection materials. Her research interests include theory and practice in conservation and technical research, especially with imaging technologies. Walthew’s current work focuses on plastics (both their conservation and cultural history) and she served as co-curator of Natural Plastics (2019) at Cooper Hewitt. She regularly lectures on topics in heritage conservation and presents at conferences on conservation theory and ethics as applied to digital collecting.

ABOUT THE behind the design SERIES

What makes an object “museum-worthy”? How does an exhibition come to life? What discoveries have been unearthed by conservators? Behind the Design features curators, conservators, and other museum staff and guests in a series of lunch-time conversations to offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Cooper Hewitt and its collection.


This free program will feature a lecture followed by an audience Q&A hosted through Zoom, with the option to dial in as well. Details will be emailed to you upon registration. This program includes closed captioning. For general questions or if we can provide additional accessibility services or accommodations to support your participation in this program, please email us at moorep@si.edu or let us know when registering.

Featured Image: Website, Watercolor Maptiles, designed in 2012, duplicated in 2020-21; designed by Eric Rodenbeck, Zachary Watson, Geraldine Sarmiento, Nathaniel Kelso, and Michal Migurski, Stamen Design; Python, Mapnik, OpenStreetMap, watercolor ink & paper, Photoshop