Japan’s Good Design Awards have been announced for 2016, and the Grand Award has gone to an unusual map. The AuthaGraph World Map “is made by equally dividing a spherical surface into 96 triangles, transferring it to a tetrahedron while maintaining areas proportions and unfolding it to be a rectangle.” Follow that? Sphere to tetrahedron to rectangle.
The brainchild of designer Hajime Narukawa, the AuthaGraph map was first released in 2010. What’s it for? In many ways it’s sort of a Japanese Peters projection: it aims to maintain the relative sizes of the continents. From the page selling the map outside Japan:
Every world map that has been invented since the Mercator Projection was first revealed in 1569 can be divided into two groups. One group fits the world into a rectangle by distorting the continents. The other group corrects the distortion, but at the cost of the rectangular shape. This is what drove Narukawa to create a map which is rectangular like the Mercator Projection map, and yet correctly projects the continents like the Dyxmaxion Map (revealed in 1946).
I first sided with the Mercator against its critics when, on one of the rare occasions I thought about Greenland, I realized just how rarely I thought about Greenland. Despite seeing it hanging there like a giant icy sword of Damocles atop every wall map, we just don’t seem to care about it. Antarctica, too, is massively inflated on the Mercator, to the point that it’s as big around as the entire earth. But few would argue that mapmakers intended to depict it as a superpower. Meanwhile, if maps lead us to ignore Africa, they should also lead us to treat cartographically bloated Canada as one of the most important countries in the world. We don’t.
He goes on to argue that if the Mercator projection was a reflection of European power, Africa would have been emphasized, not minimized.
Of all the problems with criticizing the way our maps depict Africa, the most ironic is that it ignores the continent’s history of colonialism. Consider the motives of a colonial-era British cartographer—perhaps the kind of guy who made this bold, colorful propaganda map […] showing off the queen’s dominions.
His incentive, if anything, would have been to make Africa appear as large as possible, since Britain then ruled a large share of it. With India along the same latitude, expanding the size of the earth’s equatorial region would have been a perfect way to color more of the map imperial pink.
I’ve said it before: if you want to start a fight among cartographers, ask them what their favourite map projection is. Earlier this week I did just that: I felt mischievous and wanted to try out Twitter’s polling feature, so I ran a poll asking my Map Room followers what the best projection for world maps was. And because I was feeling particularly mischievous, I made sure to include both the often-reviled Mercator projection and its antithesis, the Peters projection, rounding out the list with two less controversial choices: the Winkel tripel projection used by National Geographic, and the brand-new Patterson projection announced late last year.
The results of the poll were utterly unexpected: 42 percent chose the Mercator projection.
The Mercator Puzzle is an excellent way to visualize the distortions inherent in the Mercator projection, which conserves angles (useful for navigation) by exaggerating size at the poles (problematic in virtually every other use). Click and drag the countries in this in-browser app to see just how dramatically larger or smaller they become as you move them closer to and further away from the poles. [Boing Boing]
Map projections are inherently interesting, and also a great way to start a fight among a group of cartographers: just ask them their favourite and step back. Everyone has their preferred projection, me included, that fits their own needs and aesthetic. Cartographer Tom Patterson, whose work I’ve featured previously on The Map Room, has added another projection to the mix, the eponymous Patterson Projection, a cylindrical projection which “falls between the popular Miller 1, which excessively exaggerates the size of polar areas, and the Plate Carrée, which compressess the north-south dimension of mid latitudes.” It looks like a compromise projection in cylindrical form. A full article on the design and development of the projection is forthcoming at the link.